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More on Bush's State of the Union Thud

Yesterday, DR highlighted some results from the new Newsweek poll that indicate Bush's State of the Union (SOTU) address failed to generate the traditional post-speech bounce in presidential support. Today more results of the poll have been released and further illustrate his lack of success in moving public opinion.

The poll asked voters to rate the importance of a series of issues to their 2004 White House vote. Here are the top six issues, with the percent saying "very important" in parentheses: economy and jobs (83 percent); health care (75 percent); education (74 percent); terrorism and homeland security (70 percent); the situation in Iraq (70 percent); and Social Security/Medicare (69 percent).

Then, they asked voters who selected a given issue as "very important" whether they thought a Democratic president would do a better job than Bush on that issue. Here are the same issues with the percentage point lead (or deficit) for a Democratic president among these voters: economy and jobs (+22); health care (+34); education (+22); terrorism and homeland security (-18); situation in Iraq (dead even); and Social Security/Medicare (+32).

Pretty interesting! Despite how much Bush dwelt on terrorism and Iraq in his SOTU address, his lead on the former, his area of greatest strength, is actually less than the Democratic leads on the four domestic issues. And he has no lead whatsoever on Iraq, the front line, according to him, of the war against terror.

It's also worth noting that a Democratic president leads Bush on every other issue tested in this poll: the environment (+46); the federal budget deficit (+40); US relations with major European allies (+20); appointing new Supreme Court and federal judges (+12); foreign policy (+10); and even taxes (+8).

Turning to various proposals and decisions Bush referred to in his speech, it is striking that none of them elicit an approval rating above the mid-50's, except for "giving government funding to churches and other religious groups that provide social services" (65 percent). And DR was fascinated to note that "a constitutional amendment, if necessary, to ban gay marriage in all states" got only a 46 percent approval rating, with equally high disapproval.

Finally, how about this one: "Do you think going to war with Iraq has made Americans safer from terrorism?". Yes: 44 percent. No: 53 percent. Since this is exactly the case Bush was trying to make in the SOTU, disagreement here is a particularly telling indicator that his speech should be considered "mission not accomplished".

Comments

Ruy,

What is your take on how the Dems should address Bush's strength on "terrorism and security" issues? Are we better off going toward our strengths on domestic issues; better off trying to offer a coherent critique of the administration's policies in this area; or better off waving the flag and supporting the admin?

The first option seems very dangerous. The Dems efforts to change the subject to domestic issues in 2002 proved disastrous. On the other hand, security issues have receeded somewhat from 2002, and it is generally the case that domestic issues are far more important.

The second option seems logical in theory: Bush's foriegn policy has been a disaster and it makes sense to say so. In practice, however, it is hard to communicate a nuanced critique to the voters without being accused of being weak (Dean) or muddled (Kerry).

The third option seems problematic as well. Waving the flag and yelling "me too" (Lieberman) is intellectually repugnant and devolves into Bush-Lite.

I think David Brooks is a jerk but he said something a few weeks ago that made me worry, "Republicans are mostly united in supporting the administration's war on terror. Democrats are divided two-thirds to three-quarters opposing the war in Iraq but a significant minority still supporting the President." I fear this reality is the biggest obstacle the Dems will face in the fall. What do others think?

My hope is that the CW roughly expressed in various quarters turns out to be true in this way: if the Dem nominee can meet a vague sort of "threshold" expectation from most of the electorate on terrorism and security, then he can compete with/beat Bush on the other issues. The key point in this scenario is that the Dem doesn't have to be considered *better* on security and terrorism than Bush, he just has to be considered *good enough* to get the job done to be able to win on the other issues.

This CW doesn't quite address your question, upper left: how do we pull this off? It's tough to say. There's a fine line between some of the laudable things that the administration has done and the flat-out fear-mongering on Iraq and other issues.

I think people care more about security more than they admit to pollsters. (Kind of like those Republicans who said to pollsters they would vote in Louisiana, but stayed home because their candidate wasn't white.) Otherwise, why haven't we wiped out the republicans years ago? Looking at those numbers, you'd think we'd have a one-party state!

This is why I support Clark. With him there will be no excuses whatsoever to support republicans. Looking at http://www.forclark.com I keep coming across more and more ex-republicans who have switched sides because of Clark. That's because they know he can do more than say "I told you so" - he's got the solutions.

http://www.clark04.com

Just for fun, I'd like to see what pollees think of Bush's anti-steroids message.
AB

Ruy, you mispelled 'Turd'