« The Big Shift: How Public Opinion Has Changed on Iraq | Main | Race Tightens, But Bush Weaknesses Remain »

The Medicare Prescription Drugs Bill: Another Miserable Failure

On Wednesday, The New York Times officially caught up with DR in an article headlined "Seems Like the Last Word on Medicare Wasn't". As the article points out: "When President Bush signed into law the biggest expansion of Medicare in 38 years last December, the moment was widely considered one of unalloyed triumph for the Republicans."

But it ain't so unalloyed any more. Even John Rother, policy director of the AARP, which supported the Medicare bill, has to admit:

When we measure public opinion, what really stands out right now is that essentially the Democratic charge has taken hold, and people do see the bill as very favorable to the pharmaceutical companies and to insurers. I think they're much less clear about whether the bill helps them personally or not.

He's got that right! According to the new CBS News/New York Times poll, by more than 4:1 (34 percent to 8 percent), Americans believe that the policies of the Bush administration have increased, rather than decreased, the cost of prescription drugs for the elderly (another 27 percent say there's been no effect). And among seniors, the intended benefiaries of the legislation, it's even more lop-sided--by more than 5:1 (43 percent to 8 percent), they say Bush's policies have increased, not decreased, their drug costs.

Not exactly what the GOP had in mind. At this point, they're reduced to asserting that the truth about the bill eventually come out or (even more laughable) the availability of drug discount cards this summer will really turn things around.

AARP's Rother allows that could happen "but it's hard to predict". Actually, I don't think it's hard to predict: it won't.

Of course, the administration's problems on this front are being seriously exacerbated by the emerging scandal about suppression of cost estimates for the bill. Richard Foster, the analyst whose estimates were suppressed, now says he believes the White House directly organized and encouraged the effort to keep his estimates out of the legislative process.

They'll deny it, of course. But every little bit hurts. And it illustrates a problem with the conventional wisdom about "Bush's good week". This judgement is apparently based on: (1) Kerry's less-than-stellar performance beating back various rhetorical salvos from the Bush campaign in the past week; and (2) the horse race result in the CBS News poll cited above, which shows Bush with a small lead over Kerry.

But the other side of this is that, outside of these rhetorical exchages, nothing good has happened in the real world that puts Bush in any stronger position than he was. Quite the contrary. Instead we have: the terror bombing in Spain, that shows terrorism is alive and well; the bloody attacks in Iraq; Iraq coalition partners bailing out left and right; the Medicare scandal; and CBS News and other polls showing no change in voters' gloomy perceptions about the direction of the country, the state of the economy and the situation in Iraq.

So don't let the CW fool you. Bush is still in a lot of hot water. Time for the Kerry campaign to come right back at 'em.

Comments

Im beginning to feel that nothing I do mean NOTHING can help Kerry in this election.
The media whore is coming after Kerry, they
analyze and over-analyze however small his
vote was in efforts to tear Kerry down like
they did to Gore.

Kerry is slowly being labeled as flip-flopper now
ABC news has a piece today on his 87bils vote
and there will be many more.

Have you seen any analysis on the pentagon
office of special plans , NO ,OF COURSE.

Its depressing but should be expected I guess.

It was a blunder by Kerry to say "I voted for the $87 Billion before I voted against it." He needs to counter the picture they're painting of him. That's how Bush always runs, as the straoght-shooter against that guy that will say anything. It won't be easy, but it needs to be addressed somehow.
This is what we get for having primary voters decide a nomination based upon their guess as to electability.

The media is destroying Kerry and propping up Bush. That's why Bush's numbers keep going up. Just today AOL had a story about how awful it was that Kerry voted to cut defense spending in 1994.

Bush starts his campaign with millions of dollars of attack ads and Kerry's response is to go on vacation? This could be over quicker than I thought.

I'm with you Ruy. I think we need not lose our head over this past week. Kerry has come back from worse then this. Also, Kerry has more then enough experience to know when to pick his fights. I trust him to know when to play rope-a-dope as well.

As far as the "more leaders" flap goes, I wonder why Kerry doesn't turn it around and say that Bush is unable to hold a coalition together. He's lost Spain, Poland is saying they were taken for a ride, and I'm sure the other members are thinking of spliting as well.
PR

I think the basic reality of Bush's position is that he has a VERY low ceiling on his numbers. Many voters now perceive him to have big issues with honesty, the feckless Iraq war, and the net loss of jobs under his stewardship. These problems just are not going to go away before November -- they're unlikely even to be much ameliorated.

Voters who react strongly to these problems are, I think, large enough in number to prevent Bush from ever pulling away from Kerry any time before the election.

What this implies is that it will be extremely difficult for Bush to present a set of issues and arguments to voters that will solidify the remaining voters into a block large enough that he can stay ahead of Kerry. While on a given day Bush may be ahead of Kerry, because of the normal vicissitudes of a campaign, for most of the time, and I think at the end when it counts, Bush will very likely be behind Kerry.

And if Kerry, or events due to the very ineptness of Bush's governing, do anything to pull down Bush's ceiling even further, it may well be effectively impossible for Bush to beat Kerry.

Even if little changes in the underlying dynamics, and both sides simply roll out the expected sorts of campaigns, it's my best guess that Bush will beat Kerry only if he can create a perfect storm of BS, able to keep all of his potential voters intact.

And, given what we've seen to this point, I hardly expect perfection of any kind coming from the Bush team.