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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Was That a Bounce or a Thud?

On Wednesday, DR commented on how partisan Bush’s State of the Union (SOTU) address seemed and, for that reason, out of step with the political center of the country which harbors considerable skepticism about the president and his policies.
Results of the latest Newsweek poll, conducted two days after Bush’s address, suggest this diagnosis was accurate. Instead of the bounce in approval ratings frequently enjoyed by presidents after they deliver the SOTU, Bush appears to have landed with a thud.
The Newsweek poll has his approval rating down to 50 percent, with 44 percent disapproval, the worst rating of his presidency in this poll. Moreover, just 44 percent say they want to see him re-elected, compared to 52 percent who say they don’t, also the worst “re-elect” performance of his presidency. Finally, John Kerry actually beats Bush in a head-to-head matchup among registered voters, 49 percent to 46 percent, which has not happened before in Newsweek‘s poll. Other candidates don’t fare quite so well, but are still close. Clark, for example, has only a 1 point deficit in a Bush-Clark matchup and John Edwards loses his matchup by only 3 points (note that Edwards hitherto has never been closer than 11 points when matched up against Bush).
Guess Bush would have been wiser to give a real State of the Union address, rather than the partisan jeremiad he chose to deliver. But it’s too late now. On to November!

10 comments on “Was That a Bounce or a Thud?

  1. apostropher on

    Mitch, on how many blogs will you be posting that? Having paged past it on four different sites now, let me say: you’re not doing your candidate any favors. Spam is bad PR.

  2. Wagster on

    What to make of this electability issue? I must admit it probably makes up more than half of my criteria for a candidate. I think all top four candidates have pluses and minuses.
    Pros: Foreign policy expertise, presidential bearing, a professional and disciplined campaigner (if not inspired)
    Cons: Aloofness, his long record in the senate provides a fat target
    Pros: Inspired campaigner, likeable, a southerner
    Cons: Lack of foreign policy expertise, less than one term in the senate
    Pros: Energized base, Governor
    Cons: Undisciplined campaigner, less-than-appealing personality, lack of foreign policy expertise
    Pros: National security credentials, great bio, likeable, a southerner
    Cons: New to politics and prone to rookie errors, thin on domestic policy
    I think there might actually not be that much difference between all of them (with the exception of Dean, who I do think lags behind the other three.) However, this is the one issue where I tend to bow to the Republicans. Who are they releasing negative info on? It stands to reason that that’s who they’re scared of. It’s Edwards and Clark. I think they’re probably the two guys that have the best chance, but like I said, there’s probably not that much difference between any of them.

  3. Mara on

    I don’t share the concerns voiced here regarding the electibility of Kerry. I think he can take Bush. I think a Kerry/Edwards ticket would be very good. It is true that Kerry is ponderous, but I think he’s improved since Iowa. I have concerns about Dean because he just doesn’t have that indefinable “presidential” quality. Neither did Bush 2, but he wasn’t “elected” either. Clark hasn’t measured up to expectations (my own), and Edwards is terrific, but too green.
    Back to Kerry. Yes. He’s a northeastern liberal, and Rove will, no doubt, hammer him, but I see Kerry fighting this with issues the Repubs are weak on: economy, war on terror, lack of wpms, healthcare, etc.
    Just an aside: my brother-in-law, a veteran from the Korean War, was watching Kerry on tv yesterday, and said that he thought Kerry was a good man, although boring, and that Kerry would definitely get his vote. So, there was a recognition of Kerry’s low excitablity, but it didn’t affect his opinion of the man. I think a lot of men will feel this way.

  4. CalDem on

    I would love to see you (Rudy) do a piece on Kerry’s electability. I’m a Clark supporter because of the electability question, but I’d like to see your take. Also, would Bill Richardson as VP give us a real edge in Arizona and Nevada?

  5. BrilliantIdiot on

    The Kerry of ’03 is not electable. The “04 version may be – he’s much better on the stump and with crowds, far more likeable than you think, though of course not in Edwards’ league.
    Labeling the Dem nominee as a liberal won’t work for Repubs – that’s not how they beat Gore. They beat Gore on personality and character.
    I have to say, I think even the ’03 Kerry is better than Gore. I’d prefer Clark or Edwards, though. Dean dropped on my list after IA; I think he’s clueless about managing the media and his own image, let alone being poorly positioned on policy. I now think he’s flat out unelectable.

  6. Drew Vogel on

    I’m with you, Upper Left. I think Kerry is far too Gore-ish. I’m a big fan of both Gore and Kerry, and I think both of them would make good presidents. But I don’t see how stiff, aristocratic Kerry can beat the charming, affable Bush.
    No, that puts it too strongly. I don’t see how Kerry is more electable than any other major Democratic contender, including Dean. I think, as Ruy’s posts show, Bush is vulnerable, and he’s vulnerable to anyone. The electability question is not about who is electable and who isn’t. It’s about who is more electable than whom.
    And I think Dean is more electable than Kerry, but less electable than Clark or Edwards.

  7. Upper left on

    I admit it, I am obsessed with the electability question.
    For months I have been arguing that the CW on Dean’s “unelectability” is wrong. But as Dean kept getting hammered by his opponents and the media, you could watch him loose momentum and then start to slide in Iowa. The tag was that Dean was a New England, liberal who would end up like Dukakis.
    Now Kerry is the “frontrunner.” Who is Kerry? Kerry is a New England, liberal (Ted Kennedy’s best buddy) with a twenty year-long voting record for Karl Rove to exploit. Kerry has most of the same problems Dean has with few of Dean’s positive attributes.
    I find it truly ironic that in the Dems frantic efforts to come up with an electable candidate, they are now supporting the guy who would be easist to portray as a conventional, doctrinaire liberal.
    Frankly, I don’t know who I support at this point: Dean is damaged, but looks like he will do well enough in NH to claim a comeback. Dean also has the money and the organization to continue fighting. Clark is showing his lack of experience as a politician; showing his vulnerability to the “not a true Dem” charge; and showing that Kerry’s win and Edwards strong second have taken the anti-Dean wind out off his sails. Edwards (my second choice after Dean) is getting a little momentum and will probably be the frontrunner in SC, but it is questionable whether he has the money or the organization to go national.
    Do others share my concerns about Kerry’s electability? I can’t get over the image of Kerry as a tall Dukakis. Yes, he has a couple of medals to pin on his chest, but he opposed Gulf War I, and as the Max Cleland experience shows, the Repubs can assail the patriotism of anyone. Kerry’s stiff ponderous style and his often rambling, unfocussed speaking style really concern me. Kerry looks O.K. but I think he is too open to attack and ill-prepared to defend himself.
    To put it in another way, I have been trying to argue that Dean’s centrist record as Governor would eventually overcome his superficial image as a ultra-liberal. On the other hand, Kerry’s superficial image as a moderate, careful alternative to Dean will ultimately be undermined by his doctrinaire, liberal record as Senator. Irony is everywhere.

  8. Curious on

    Good questions, tstreet. It’s nice of Ruy to present the poll statistics, but there’s no context to really judge their significance. If somebody did that sort of thing, it would be invaluable.

  9. tstreet on

    Does anyone know how this thud compares to past SOTU by Bush and others. An historical perspective might be interesting and instructive.
    As for Dean, it’s only going to get worse as he leasves the cold confines of New Hampshire. It is now between Kerry and Edwards, with Kerry with a seeming slight edge in electability. The current polls bear that out. Still hoping for a Kerry/Edwards ticket. Experience and magic, a hard to beat combination.
    Perhaps Dean could play a useful roll in a future Kerry/Edwards administration. Now if I could just peel that Dean bumper sticker off my car. In a perfect country, one not so freaked out by fear and terrorism, perhaps Dean could prevail, but not this year. While he is generally right on the issues, I just don’t think he has the resonance to go all the way. But if Kerry and or Edwards can win, they will owe Dean a note of thanks.

  10. Mitchell Gore on

    Off Topic rant, spiel, pitch… what have you:
    Why Support Howard Dean…?
    Ever since former Vermont Governor Howard Dean entered the race for president two years ago, he has been the leader in setting the debate. Dean stood up to George W. Bush when few others would and pressed other Democrats to do so as well. Howard Dean has energized the base of the Democratic Party, and as the candidate of hope, vision, courage, and experience, has created a real chance for at victory for working people in 2004…
    Dean Delivers Health Care
    While other candidates endlessly talk about healthcare, Howard Dean, who is also a medical doctor, has delivered it. While Governor of Vermont, Dr. Dean provided healthcare coverage for 99% of children under 18, for low- and middle-income families, for seniors and the disabled, and for expectant mothers in the state. He also required that mental illness and substance abuse receive the same coverage that serious physical illness does. Gov. Dean also provided a prescription drug coverage program for seniors and the disabled while Congress talked about it. Because of a strong commitment to helping seniors live productive lives at home, Gov. Dean shifted funds from nursing homes to other services, such as home health care, so more seniors could live with dignity in their own homes. Gov. Dean’s vision for the future includes an effective and practical kind of social responsibility. His Success By Six program in Vermont places a strong emphasis on early childhood prevention and health care, with visits to the homes of all new parents who request help (91% do). This long-term vision is designed to help prevent child abuse, which has dropped 45%, which in the long run, creates healthy, productive, fully functional family support that will keep these children out of prison when they grow up. Gov. Dean did all this, while balancing the budget, cutting taxes and not by slashing funding for education, police, fire departments and other vital services.
    Job Creation and Fiscal Responsibility
    In his eleven-year tenure as Governor of Vermont, Howard Dean created 20% more good-paying jobs, lowered the unemployment rate, and raised the minimum wage. He also balanced the budget year after year–and he did so while cutting taxes twice, responsibly, and while providing funding for health care, school reform, and the protecting the environment. When Gov. Dean took office in 1991, he inherited a record deficit. When he left office eleven years later, he left the state with a record surplus and a solid rainy day fund in case of an economic down-turn. Because of Gov. Dean’s fiscal management skills, he was able to pay down the debt and take Vermont from the lowest bond rating in New England to the highest. With the Bush Administration giving trillions of dollars of irresponsible tax cuts to the wealthy and shifting the taxes to state and local governments while charging it to our children and grandchildren in the form of debt, the country is going to need an experienced fiscal manager to pull us back from the brink of economic disaster.
    The (right kind of) Money to Win
    On January 1, 2004, the Dean campaign announced another quarter of record-breaking fund-raising, citing $15.38 million for the fourth quarter of 2003. This put Dean at $40.78 million for the year. But with nearly 300,000 contributors and an average contribution of under $100, Dean is not beholden to special interests or fat-cat donor, but to us, the people. In addition he can go back to the well again and again. It’s a source of funding that is unlikely to dry up, making a 50-state primary strategy possible to fight for restoring American prosperity to everyone. In addition, in a savvy general election strategy, the Dean campaign decided to forgo matching funds. Giving up this public financing will make Gov. Dean financially competitive with George W. Bush and his millions of dollars from fat-cat special interests. By opting out of the tax funded campaign system, the Dean campaign is not required to adhere to limiting primary spending limits – limits that would surely cripple any Democratic presidential campaign by March of 2004 and allow Bush to attack our candidate without the ability to respond. With Gov. Dean’s proven record of balancing budgets, expanding healthcare and creating jobs, they had better worry. Everyday people, when they learn who Gov. Dean is, and look at his record will see that he is a REAL leader and support him.
    You should too.
    The above is from a new two-sided flyer “Tired of affordable healthcare?” which is part of the “Re-Select Bush” guerrilla campaign I have up on my Gore4Dean website. (http://www.gore4dean.com/why.html)
    This piece shows on one side, Washington/Bush’s failure to address the serious issue of affordable healthcare. The back has the above copy which lays out the solid record and real reasons why everyone should support Howard Dean. PLEASE download and distribute it as far and as wide as possible.
    p.s. if you are so inclined to donate to Dean for America, please consider hitting the bat via my Dean Team bat on my website for the effort.


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