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That Oh-So-Negative New York Times Poll

It's been a busy day but I couldn't let it go by without a few comments on the new CBS News/New York Times poll. It would be easy to miss, or not understand fully, how negative this new poll is, coming as it does, on the heels of a number of other strongly negative polls. Also, the horse race result (Bush down by a point) is indeed better for the president than the same poll's result last month (a Bush deficit of 8 points). But Bush, while behind by less, is still behind and is registering only 44 percent support, a catastrophic level for an incumbent seeking re-election.

As Frank Newport of Gallup recently put it:

None of the five presidents who won re-election [since 1956] were behind their eventual opponent in any trial heats after January in the year prior to their election.

So, one point deficit or 8 point deficit, Bush is still following a losing pattern.

And, as Newport also put it:

Based on historical patterns, Bush's [under 50 percent] job approval rating is thus underperforming the pattern of presidents who have won re-election.

Check again on the losing pattern. Bush's approval rating in this poll is a miserable 41 percent with 51 percent disapproval. And his approval rating among independents is a breathtakingly bad 34 percent.

Moreover, Bush's approval rating on the economy, despite some increase in economic optimism registered by the poll, remains mired at 40 percent approval/52 percent disapproval. And independents give him the same abysmal 34 percent they give him overall.

But that's better than Bush fares on Iraq, where he receives only a 36/58 rating, with independents downgrading him further to 29/62. He does little better on foreign policy in general, receiving a 39 percent rating from the public as a whole and a 32 percent rating for independents.

Only on the campaign against terrorism does he get an approval rating over 50 (52 percent) and, even here, independents still give him a sub-50 rating (48 percent).

And here's more trouble: wrong track (57 percent) is 21 points higher than right direction (36 percent) and is more than 2:1 among independents (62-28).

Yup, it's a referendum on the incumbent and these are terrible numbers to have if you're an incumbent--especially as we shade into July of an election year.

More on this poll tomorrow.

Comments

The real question is, are these the first stirrings of an upward trend for Bush, which mean Kerry needs to get off his ass and start "closing" in July instead of when, August? Septermber? Is it a small and/or temporary bump.

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This is just as important as electing JK!

Got to agree with mimiru on one thing. If the last year has taught us anything, it's that poll numbers can swing pretty wildly in a few months.

And there are some unknowns out there that could shake things up profoundly -- capture of Osama, trial of Saddam, attack in the US. Things are still very, very unsettled.

On the other hand, it's not clear whether Kerry can do much about it until the convention.

Kerry should be spending his time tailoring his message for the US electorate. He is undefined because his economic ideas poll worse than Bush and will cause him to lose the election. So he isn't saying what he's going to do on TV.

Bush can go on TV and present Kerry's tax increases in the worst possible light. Kerry comes back and presents them in the best light, but they factually cannot compete with Bush's tax plan.

Kerry to me beats Bush because Bush will blow up the world, and then it doesn't matter how well the economy is doing. But I still think Kerry's tax plans are inferior and will cost him the election unless he changes them.

Bush and Kerry are on a race to the bottom. Bush is flailing on Iraq, but an economy is revving up just enough to give him a breath of life.

But Kerry essentially hasn't done anything strong since he clinched the nomination. He's just out-numbered there, kerry alone facing a whole administration. And unfortunately, the drawn out VP process just fits right into the can't make up his mind, flip-flopper image.

So yes, it's Bush's election to lose, but Kerry could blow bigger than the President.

Bush and Kerry are on a race to the bottom. Bush is flailing on Iraq, but an economy is revving up just enough to give him a breath of life.

But Kerry essentially hasn't done anything strong since he clinched the nomination. He's just out-numbered there, kerry alone facing a whole administration. And unfortunately, the drawn out VP process just fits right into the can't make up his mind, flip-flopper image.

So yes, it's Bush's election to lose, but Kerry could blow bigger than the President.

What could Kerry have done in the last month or so that would be considered "strong"?

The best thing Kerry can do right now is keep his head down. Everytime he pops up and opens his mouth, his numbers go down. He is the only candidate I've seen who does better, the less you see of him.

I used to worry about Kerry's poll numbers until I realized it's early and there are a lot of people still not paying attention.
Bush is the one who should be worried because he is known by eveyone and his approval numbers are in the low to mid 40's.
Assuming Kerry will get good vibes from his V.P. pick (hopefully its Edwards) and a reasonable bounce from the convention, to me he is in good shape.

Alan Snipes,
Drudge has the latest rumor about Kerry's VP choice:
http://www.drudgereport.com/kerryhrc.htm

S. Robinson- I don't care what Matt Drudge says. He is a sleazebag and liar and would no more visit his web site than kill myself.

wellbasically offers:

"Kerry to me beats Bush because Bush will blow up the world, and then it doesn't matter how well the economy is doing. But I still think Kerry's tax plans are inferior and will cost him the election unless he changes them."

Please do tell how Kerry's tax plan is inferior to a woefully irresponsible supply-side policy that shifts taxes regressively, shifts them from all income to wages and salaries, is intended to reward the top 1% with the vast majority of the breaks, generates the lowest corporate tax revenues in 100 years, and builds in very dangerous long-term structural deficits that threaten to undermine both our long-term economic growth and popular social programs.

Kerry's plan will raise taxes on the top marginal rate and deliver more breaks to the working and middle classes. This provides not only greater demand-side stimulus to the economy, but it has the added effect of helping to balance the budget.

That having been said, I am indeed open and curious as to what basis you have for making your comment on Kerry. Perhaps there is something I am missing.

Just remember -- the kinds of things being said about Kerry now are pretty much exactly what folks said about him last November vis-a-vis the primaries -- two months before he nailed Iowa AND New Hampshire.

I expect he is using the time to raise money, refine his message, and get his ducks in a row for a strong finish -- in October.

At the moment there is too much opportunity for Bush to co-opt any of his initiatives, and build their counter-strategy. It's much to early for him to put his cards on the table. Leave that to the Bush campaign.

I agree that Kerry's tax position is a good one: get rid of the tax breaks for families (individuals?) making more that 200k/yr, and open up some tax breaks for small businesses.

But the whole tax debate over the past two is a good example of where the Bush campaign shows its strategic and tactical strengths: about two and a half years ago, after 20+ years of repubs talking about tax breaks and then delivering most of them to rather wealthy people and very large businesses, Kerry came out and said: "I'll show you what a Democratic tax cut looks like". Bush's next round of tax cuts, proposed soon after that remark, had the first significant tax cuts for the middle class in 25 years. Outflanked!

But Bush is still vulnerable on even this last round, since for some unfathomable reason, he highlighted the cuts on taxes from dividends, which he was unable to spin like even the "death taxes".

On Iraq, you can see this outflanking strategy at work, since he has quietly been doing many of the things Democrats have been suggesting for the past year, like going to NATO for help.

Yet, we don't really know how well Kerry is doing, since historically, as has been noted, successful challengers have NOT done well in the spring. But the period when we will be able to reliably measure whether Kerry is cutting the mustard is coming up soon...

The MOST reliable poll predictor is this: If any candidate does not have a convincing lead in the week or two after their convention, then they're toast for sure.

Lawrence, you raise some good points. However, while there were a few middle class familes that met the specific criteria for significant tax relief, most received minor breaks at best. I thought it was a good move by Bush, but not so clever as to be considered an "outflanking" in my mind(polling data that I've seen seems to suggest that most share the view that Bush is shifting tax burdens, not cutting them). Given that this, real wages, and inflation are somewhat complicated to convey(compares to the GOP mantra "tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts!", I'm surprised at how few people are buying the Bush plan, at least this far.

>>On Iraq, you can see this outflanking strategy at work, since he has quietly been doing many of the things Democrats have been suggesting for the past year, like going to NATO for help.
>>
Again, given the data that suggests people are unhappy with Bush's management of the occupation, I don't think that the outflanking is working. People seem to realize that his moves are more of a realization that he planned poorly for the after-war. Frankly, I'm surprised that so many people seem to be seeing through the spin at this point.

I think that they are starting to realize that there are only so many times you can try to re-define your policy to look like your opponents' before people start to question your ability to develop cogent policies on your own. Of course, that could just be wild conjecture on my part.....

Sadly, to reiterate the salient point, second-term defeats rely on two things: 1) significant disatisfaction with the incumbent, and 2) a satisfactory level of confidence in the vision and personality of the challenger. While the first point definitely obtains, the Rove propaganda machine and some gaffes by Kerry himself may keep the second point from enabling the Democrats to retake the White House, in my opinion.

What is this about the "drawn-out" VP selection making him look like a flip-flopper? Could we have a few MORE RNC talking points?

This is about the same time that Gore picked Loserman, and Bush picked Cheney. Nothing is being dragged out.

The main reason Bush is going back up is because the public has browbeaten the public into thinking the economy is wonderful. This is an endless cycle because even though many are still suffering, they will believe that they are the exception, and everything will get better, because hey, that's what the news says. We will also start to see social wedge issues playing more of a factor.

I think this election will be decided based on GOTV. If Democrats can do better on this than they did in the horrific 2002 midterms, they may have a shot.

Bush's 2003 tax cuts on capital worked to help the economy, while his 2001 tax cuts did not work. I could see Kerry raising rates on higher incomes, especially if he included tax simplification for those people. The US economy did pretty well in the 60s and 70s with high income tax rates on millionaires.

But the tax cuts on capital have worked to bring the stock market up and so bring investment into the economy. Investment is good not just for the investors, but also for the people with jobs, who get more productive from investment, and so make more money.

Kerry's repeal of many investment tax cuts, except for complicated exemptions for small business, will hurt the workers who benefitted from the 2003 cuts.

Bush doesn't know from his tax cuts. He thinks he's putting money in people's pockets, or giving the money back to people who earned it etc. He is very vulnerable here.

In my opinion Kerry is being misled by his Rubin-type advisors, who are stupid enough to believe that you just raise taxes and the economy gets better. It makes me literally ill to think of Bush getting re-elected and running over the Ds like he did in 2002. I don't want to leave this kind of world for my children so I pray that Kerry will change his tax plan.

Kerry is going to be in my neck of the woods campaigning over the next couple of days. He begins at noon today in Cloquet Mn, and then takes his bus caravan on to Duluth, Superior Wisconsin, and then south through Western Wisconsin to Iowa, and on Monday he will campaign in Iowa.

What ties these rural areas together. First If you want a name for the tour, and an emotional location, call it the Evict Whistleass Tour -- because the lovely lady who put into her obit that her memorials should go toward unseeting "Whistleass" lived along this route. More specifically -- this is five congressional districts that since 1980 have shown a decided interest in third party candidates -- the Minnesota 8th did well for Anderson in 1980 -- turned out a huge vote for Peroit in 92, was almost 20 points for Nader in 2000 and was strong for Jesse Ventura in 1998. Normally it is solidly DFL -- Jim Oberstar wins it by 85 points. It is the combination of the lass of the Iron Mining industry and the demise of middle sized dairy and meat products farming operations that screw this part of the world -- China just bought the Taconite mines, and the Republicans are promoting the shores of Lake Superior as a grand place to build coal fired generators -- with the coal coming from Wyoming and the polution drefting over the great lakes.

Just yesterday Wisconsin heard that the largest farmer owned cheese co-op is going belly up. Apparently it cannot market the classic product. This is yet one more set-back for the middle sized family owned dairy operation.

Do these parts concern themselves with Iraq -- sure do, they have a very high rate of losses compared to other parts of the country -- their national guard has had multiple call-ups, many seriously wounded, and a very high death rate. Bush wants to close down one regional VA medical center.

The Wisconsin counties were, in 1968 very friendaly to Eugene McCarthy's campaign pegged as anti-war. (and less interested in Humphrey and Bob Kennedy). It is a strain of old time isolationism that runs through this area -- but the area knows full well its Ag industry is dependent on international trade. The only businesses really doing well these days are the Indian Cansinos, as this bus trip will take Kerry through the Chippawa, Winnebago and Sioux nations.

I suggest all these details because it is the local campaigning in places where there are persuadable voters where Kerry wins this campaign -- and the details of NE Minnesota, Western Wisconsin, and NE Iowa are what's in store for the weekend.

In a significant part of this route, Kerry will be going past cafe's that feature very large pictures of another JFK who campaigned the route in 1960, quite successfully. It is very much where he should be campaigning, and spending his time with the local party leaders -- local press and local culture.