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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Zounds! He’s Gone Net Negative!

The latest Ipsos/Associated Press poll has Bush’s approval rating down to 47 percent, with 50 percent disapproval. That’s down from 56 percent approval just a month ago. Apparently, his drop in support has been largest among older voters, those in the Midwest and political independents.
In addition, just 37 percent say they would vote to re-elect Bush, compared to 43 percent who say they would definitely vote against him. That’s down from 41 percent definitely re-elect to 33 percent definitely vote against a month ago. And political independents by 2:1 now say they will defiiniely vote against Bush, rather than for him.
Bush’s approval rating on the economy has also fallen to 44 percent, down 9 points from early January. There has been a similar decline in those willing to say the country is going in the right direction, falling from about half to four in ten.
Let me close with a quote that had ole DR wiggling his long ears appreciatively:
“I think he’s run the country into the ground economically, and he comes out with these crazy ideas like going to Mars and going to the moon,” said Richard Bidlack, a 78-year-old retiree from Boonton, N.J., who says he voted for Bush in 2000. “I’m so upset at Bush, I’ll vote for a chimpanzee before I vote for him.”
By George (or Richard), I think he’s got it!

33 comments on “Zounds! He’s Gone Net Negative!

  1. Maxcat on

    America will always do the right thing, eventually. We need to stay focused on our message. Bush as president has been a disaster for our country in many directions. We offer America a different and better choice. In the next several months we will be subjected to a storm of unparalled devastation in the form of the Republican Presidential campaign. Forget the polls, forget the demographics, forget the experts opinions, remember the lies, remember the lost jobs, remember the lost soldiers. Stand tall and avoid falling to their level, take the higher ground. They are dividers, we are uniters. Stay focused and look to America’s future with our new directions. Stay on message and always remember, no matter what they say the Bush record is written in history and cannot be taken away, that is the best answer to any spin that they produce. The one thing that stands out in my mind more than anything else is that whatever they say or put out as bad about us, when you look at the facts almost everyone of those things they are worse than we are. Time after time this hold true. So it becomes very easy for us to just use their own words to show the people the truth. Kinda like they are helping us when you think about it.
    Do the right thing America. GWB it’s time for you to retire, we like you personally but we have serious work to do. So bye, bye.

  2. Peter on

    rt, there’s some confusion now as to whether or not Kerry has agreed with a constitutional amendment or not, and whether he was talking about Massachusetts or nationwide. He told NPR that he’d have to see the wording.
    Either way this issue is a huge devastating defeat for Dems. The saddest part is that they will have to beome more and more anti-gay to capitulate.

  3. rt on

    Re same sex marriage, Kerry said last week, I believe, that he’s against it, period. I’m not sure how much more straightforward he can be on that.
    The debate will go to his (or whoever the nominee is–I don’t want it to end tomorrow or in Wisconsin) stances on civil union, on the Defense of Marriage Act, and on a US constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
    Didn’t Kerry take a “state’s rights” stance on civil union and say Cheney took the same position? It’s a given that anything he says that sounds supportive or even tolerant of it they will try to equate with his favoring gay marriage. Of course they will say and do anything to create the impression that we are for “them” and they are against “them”.
    A lot of people don’t know what civil union is. Even civil union is a non-starter in many states. But if the distinction is explained clearly and often and well enough, I have to hope that we won’t net a loss of independents and persuadable Republicans on this issue. Surely there are pollsters busily at work trying to figure out if that’s an accurate read or not.
    Some will think I am crazy but I believe it’s possible for the Republicans to overreach here (insofar as most independents and moderate, persuadable Republicans are concerned).
    I can imagine Kerry (or whomever) in debate saying something like “You know, this is what campaigns that have a poor record on jobs and health care and education and national security do–they try to divide us as a people against one another, in this case by gay bashing. No matter what my opponent wants you to believe, this election is not about gay marriage, because regardless of which one of us wins in November gay marriage is not going to happen.”
    Something like that. If we say it right and often enough, enough of the moderates will get it (I say, hopefully).

  4. Peter on

    Steve, I’m giving up nothing. What I am doing is reminding people of how important this issue is going to be. A Newsweek poll from several days ago had nearly 60% of voters saying that same-sex marriae was either very important or somewhat important in their decision to vote. This issue is all over the place, and Rove hasn’t even started his huge campaign of fear and paranoia yet.
    I say this because we all need to be on guard at all times to steer people we know away from letting same-sex marriage or anti-gay views push them into voting GOP. This will happen to people, not only fundies, but sane, reasonable people. It happened with terror issues in 2002. It will happen again this November. The timing of the Mass. courts was so poor and so self-defeating that I’m starting to wonder if perhaps God does want Bush to win after all. Maybe He hates us that much. Who knows.

  5. Steve Cohen on

    Good God, Peter, you’re giving up the Presidential race already, solely on the basis of your perception that anti-gay feeling will trump all? And you call this realism?
    As for myself, I find it hard to imagine the anti-gay thing doing much more than sealing the deal for those who are going to vote for Bush anyway. Think about it. Can you imagine anyone who thinks, “the economy is gone to hell, Bush lied about Iraq, but damnit all, I have to stop the gay takeover of America and so I’m sticking with Bush”? I can’t imagine very many voters being in that space.
    I think you need to get over your “paranoia of the red states” and let yourself imagine a world that’s different from the shit we’ve been through the last four years.

  6. Peter on

    Matt, I think you truly underestimate the hostility and rage towards homosexuals by much of the public. Remember that Rove and anti-gay groups will be spending hundreds of millions of dollars to demonize gays and bring scared, outraged straights to the polls in November. That is what will win this election, on every level, for the Republicans. That’s also why Kerry will probably try to be about as anti-gay as Bush — he doesn’t have a choice.
    I don’t see this as pessimism, I see it as realism. When Bush wins I won’t say “I told you so”. Seeing a dictator given 4 more years to rape our country is not something I would gloat about. I don’t think Laura or Bill would either. Laura in particular has given many eloquent reasons why this race is nearly lost, and the Kerry-mentum is one of them. I don’t agree with Laura about Clark. I think he’s a dreadful candidate, particularly when considering all the time and money spent on him; he can’t even stick to one position on abortion or Iraq even though he has much less baggage than Kerry-Edwards. However, she is 100% right that the public has ignored Kerry as a true candidate and instead focused on him as some mythic warrior. How will they treat that warrior once they find out about his ties to “Hanoi” Jane? Or his longtime special interests connections? Or Teresa’s ties to Enron? They will say, “he is the Democrat Bush, we may as well stick with what we have.” Unfortunately, this is the position many Deaniacs are already taking. They seem to be waiting for Nader ’04, and we all know that is on the way.
    I’m not trying to be pessimistic. I’m saying, let’s see what we can do about the Senate races. There are some chances for inroads, or at least hold steady with current numbers, and we will need a steady Senate to filibuster Bush’s lunatic federal and Supreme Court nominees.

  7. Arao on

    I think its all going to be about money. So, please, give till it hurts. My wife and I are giving 2K a piece (yes, we’re going into debt) to the Kerry campaign, and are going to raise more from friends and family.
    Once the primary is settled and the post-primary lull sets in, the RNC is going to hit the media full blast with $170 million of advertising and PR. Then, unless the rest of us have something with which to answer the barrage, it wil be all over, bar the shouting.

  8. Paul C on

    I hav lived in Massachusetts since 1980 and have watched Kerry’s political rise here. I have never felt any personal affinity toward him regardless of the fact that his politics match mine very well. But one thing I can say about John Kerry he is a very effective campaigner. He has a real knack for finding his opponant’s vulnerable spot and exploiting the hell out of it. I have considered all sorts of combinations as this primary season has gone on Dean/Clark Edwards/Clark Clark/Feinstein Clark/Richardson etc.
    But I have to hand it to Kerry he finds a way to win. That is the main thing that brings me hope about the fall.

  9. Steve Cohen on

    The trouble with pessimists is that they are pessimistic no matter what the situation.
    Bush ahead in the polls: “Oh the American people are such morons. We’ll never get rid of him.”
    Bush falls behind in the polls: “Oh woe is us, it’s a fluke, we’re peaking too early, wait till they go negative.”
    Or “it’s only because of all the publicity of the primary season.”
    Another way of looking at that, though, is when finally given a chance to express an opinion about Bush, look at all the Democrats come out of the woodwork. Democratic primary voting is at an all-time high.
    However, the best argument I can give a pessimist, is, suppose you’re right? What will you have gained? Nothing other than saving yourself from a little broken-heart pain. You’ll be able to say “I told you so.” Will that satisfy you somehow? What will you have lost? Possibly, if your pessimism prevents you from engaging in activity, you will be contributing to the outcome you say you don’t want.
    As for myself I don’t know if we can win or not, but I can’t let that determine my choices. Get in the game, for Chrissakes!

  10. Ron Thompson on

    Why does the press keep screwing up this fact? When the President received his discharge in 1973 his father was not a Congressman: he was the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and it was the summer of the Ervin Committee and John Dean. Is it unthinkable that a White House which bugged the Watergate and bombed Cambodia would pull strings for the son of Nixon’s hand-picked RNC Chair? They were the ones who sent him down to Alabama to work for Nixon’s Postmaster General in the race against Sen. Sparkman.

  11. Harold Harkleson on

    Note this funny comment from Republican chairman Ed Gillespie, in a news item that made the front page of Google News today.
    “Their anger is surging but their party is shrinking, down to 32 percent of voters who identify themselves as Democrats,” said Republican chairman Ed Gillespie. “As the Democrat Party gets smaller, it becomes increasingly more liberal, elitist and angry. … Our party, happily, is growing.”
    Funny, because according to Ruy’s “How’s America Leaning” post of January 21, “According to the most recent CBS News/New York Times poll, the Democrats now have a four point lead on party ID (32 percent to 28 percent), even before independents are asked which party they lean towards.”
    And “If you ask independents which party they lean toward, 21 points out of the 33 percentage points that say they are independent are willing to select a party. Out of this group of independents (“independent leaners”), about three-quarters (15 points) go to the Democrats and only about one-quarter (6 points) goes to the Republicans. That means that, once these leaners are factored in, the Democrats have a very healthy 13 point lead in party ID over the Republicans (47 percent to 34 percent).”
    Ed Gillespie, do you think if you spin it hard enough, it will become true?

  12. Laura on

    Hi everyone. It’s fun to be part of this conversation. I don’t think I’m fatalistic although I am depressed. I’m depressed because I think we have a candidate who could win and he’s losing because the Democrats are letting the media influence their choices too much. (I’m a Clarkie). I hope Kerry can win and I appreciate his current fighting stance. “Bring it on” is exactly the right attitude.
    I attended my caucus in Washington yesterday. Over a thousand people jammed into a middle school cafeteria. The Kerry people who ran the caucus were not prepared for the crowd. We began with an opportunity for people to advocate for their candidate. Clark, Edwards and Dean people spoke. The Kerry person claimed that Kerry was the most electable. We broke into precincts but since we were jammed into a space too small everyone had to shout and no one could hear well. In our smaller group of one hundred or so, people tried to advocate for Dean, Clark, and Kucinich. No one spoke for Kerry. I opened my big mouth and said that we should vote for who we wanted , and not get on any band wagons generated by the press.
    About a third of us were undecided at the initial vote. On the second vote the undecideds went to Kucinich and Dean. I went to Dean because I’m hoping he’ll drop out and endorse Clark. I told the Dean people this but they let me be an alternate any way.
    My point is this: much of Kerry’s support comes from people who think he’s going to get the nomination anyway so they might as well vote for him or people who vote for him because they reconize his name or people who have bought the “Mr. Electability” fantasy. No one could give any other reason for choosing him as our candidate. All of that shows the power of the press to manipulate public opinion. It does not show careful thoughtful decisionmaking on the part of Democrats.
    I hope Kerry really is electable. I will vote for him if he gets the nomiation. I will work for him, give money, the whole nine yards. But it shouldn’t be a done deal that he gets the nomination. We shouldn’t be choosing based on bandwagon effect. Believing that Kerry is “Mr. Electability” is like believing in Tinkerbell. I hope the remaining caucuses and primaries will show more thought and discussion.

  13. Matt McIrvin on

    Geez. If Bush does get reelected, it will be because the depressive fatalism of people like some of the posters in this thread convinced Democrats to stay home.
    (3/4 of Americans want to *murder* gays?? 3/4 of drunk guys in my freshman college dorm, maybe…)
    The notion that the drop is a deliberate fake by the Bush team is ridiculous. The same drop in Bush’s numbers occurs across a dozen different polls by separate organizations, some of which are no friend of Bush, as you can see on pollingreport.com. Their systematics are all over the map; right now Kerry leads the ones that tend to have a systematic Democratic bias and Bush leads the ones that tend to have a systematic Republican bias. But the trend’s the same everywhere. The coordination necessary to orchestrate a fake fluctuation in every one of them would be tremendous. Besides, the post-Saddam-capture drop is consistent with what’s happened after every big news event that gives Bush a rise.
    Bush is not a political idiot, but neither do he and Karl Rove have mind-control superpowers. Either attitude toward them is a recipe for disaster; they are canny but fallible human beings and can be beaten like human beings. Bush could win in November, but the 80+ percent national affection for Bush in late 2001 was a trauma reaction that cannot be repeated except by a larger trauma. Bush might be able to win if he’s willing to nuke an American city or two, but if the country’s being run by a conspiracy that malevolent, we have bigger things to worry about than the presidential election.

  14. Peter on

    Brian and Laura are right. The Olympics will kill the Democrats and the pathetic 9/11 pandering and jerry-rigged economic improvement by that time will guilt and browbeat much of America into loving Bush again. He will also make sure that people only vote based on gay marriage, not on their pocketbook, and sadly, 3/4 or more of America hates gays and would rather murder them than let them get married.
    Bush WILL get reelected. No question. I don’t even think these polls are genuine. I think Rove set them up so that Bush would look like a comeback kid by this summer.
    What people here should concentrate on is the Senate races. With some luck we may be able to win 3 or 4 of those (North Carolina, Louisiana, Illinois, Florida or South Carolina maybe). The Presidential race is a lost cause.

  15. Joe Gandelman on

    GREAT entry. In fact, I am now quoting the line about independents (and of course attributing it) in an entry I’m doing now on my blog. Two things here: a)I think if Osama is captured right before the election it would be such a cynical move (even if he is killed) that it would backfire, b)independents are the key. Clearly, in trying to keep his base GWB has united Democrats and started to scare independents. I know some folks that wanted Ralph Nader and either voted for him or almost did. They have been in a state of mourning over this administration’s environmental policies. When GWB “won” (I will give him the benefit of the doubt on this, based on some of the recounts after that indicated Gore would have lost anyway) he did so because he ran a campaign as a “compassionate conservative” (he said). And in Texas he had a bipartisan reputation. In 2004 you can’t pull the same political trick; people how KNOW where he stands and precisely what his agenda is. There are no more “doubts” about where he stands — and it is firmly on the side of conservative Republicans. I personally think if the GOP enflames people over the gay marriage issue they can if not win make it a very close race. I just hope Kerry and the Democrat Powers That Be have a detailed strategy all ready for dealing with that issue.

  16. Brian on

    Well let me clarify some things. Of course capturing Osama would be great news. I certainly think that we should, and could, have captured him two years ago, if the U.S. had not gotten sidetracked by Iraq. But the point of this site is to discuss the Democrats’ chance in November, and the capture of Osama will make it very difficult for the Democrats.
    On the Olympics, I’m not saying it will make a huge difference, but it will increase feelings of patriotism. And the Republican Party, since 9/11, has continuously tried to position itself as the “patriotic party”. Sure, it’s disgusting watching conservatives wrap themselves in the flag, and accusing anyone who’s against any war as being “un-American”. But the Democrats need to be prepared for what’s coming in the summer, and the current patting ourselves on the back over a spate of positive poll numbers won’t do it.

  17. Jon on

    One more thing. Catching Osama would be a great thing whenever it happened. It should have happened a long time ago. We should be demanding that the President do it.
    I have heard a lot of Democrats almost sounding like they hope it does not happen. Lets keep some perspective. I understand the fear of an October Surprise, but if we start to hate Bush more than Osama, we will loose, loose badly, and deserve it.

  18. Jon on

    The pessamists have a point that Kerry is riding high right now and that it will get harder than this down the road, but a few points:
    First, what does feeling patriotic about the olympics have to do with anything? The day one party gets the patriot vote we become a one party country, and thats a good thing.
    Second, Bushes strategy of running on 911 is not without risks. Kerry is a much more ‘macho’ guy than Bush, and if he is the nominee, Bush will have a hard time running on fear, as that might just get people to choose the toothier dog. If Edwards is the Nominee, Bush will have to fight really hard to keep the south. Either way his campaign will probably feature a lot of ugly Culture War stuff. Swing voters may not like the idea of gay marriage, but I would guess that they like televangelism even less.
    Lastly, Kerry (If he gets the nod) will be able to spend as much money as he he can raise, and he will raise lots. Edwards, if he gets the nod, will get to debate Bush.
    In other words, it will be hard, and the odds are still a little bit against us, but there are lots of reasons to be optimistic.

  19. nmacsata on

    After reading all these comments I have to think to myself, “no wonder Bush won in the last election.” This is a website dedicated to the emerging democratic MAJORITY. Remember folks there are still more dems out there in this country than there are reps…
    But here’s why they beat us:
    1. They don’t sit on their butts whining about the latest poll results. They go on offensive actions and win over peoples lowest common denominator, “a money motivated heart.”
    2. The democrats can’t match their anti-handout messages. Every time you hear an uneducated voter talking about a democratic administration the first thing you hear is how they take away their hard earned money and give it to bums…Democrats need to rally people around what is really important.
    3. Republican’s win because people in America are greedy and Republican’s promise more for Me Me Me Me Me…but they do it masked in moral righteousness.
    Well, I’ve ranted enough here…I think Democrats need to let everyone know what this country’s priorities should be. If you ask me:
    # 1. HELPING TO PROVIDE OPPORTUNITY FOR EVERYONE…it’s good because we’ll all benefit from lower poverty rates…”me.me.me.me.me…maybe those bums won’t mug me…”

  20. Brian on

    Have to agree with Laura; I think everyone is overreacting to the latest polls. The last month has been a dream for Dems…a primary that has gotten a lot of media coverage, with the various candidates spending more time bashing Bush than each other, a dismal showing for the job market (initially 1,000 in December), the release of a budget with another record deficit, and high profile questioning of WMD intelligence.
    Frankly, it couldn’t have been much better for the Dems…and yet the polls still show the general election race at almost 50-50. This is probably the low point in Bush’s approval ratings, and even a modest rebound may be enough to get him re-elected.
    But I think there will be more than a modest rebound. Here’s what we can expect over the next several months:
    1. Bush will start spending that massive war chest, driving up Kerry’s negative ratings and making people question Kerry’s “mainstream” values.
    2. The U.S. will likely capture or kill Osama bin Laden (see recent reports of a possible spring offensive into Pakistan)
    3. The Olympics will overshadow coverage of the Democratic convention, as well as increase feelings of patriotism.
    4. After the Olympics, when everyone is feeling nice and patriotic, the Republicans will host their convention, which will be late enough in the year for the post-convention bounce to last until election day.
    In short, Bush will run as the 9/11 president, and with the possible capturing of bin Laden, coupled with the announcement (before the election, of course) of a war crimes trial for Saddam Hussein, I think he’ll be successful. I expect his approval ratings will be in the 60s by election day, resulting in a fairly easy re-election.
    Sorry for the pessimism.

  21. Laura on

    I hope Kerry can win the general since he’s going to get the nomination but I’m not as confident as everyone else seems to be. Right now he is riding on the bandwagon effect created by the media. He has more name recognition than anyone else because Fox and CNN want him to win. (Democrats should be asking themselves why_) That kind of popularity can disappear overnight. Fox and CNN won’t be giving him positive air time after the real race begins. What the polls say now is more meaningless than encouraging. The Bush vs, Kerry polls only relfect name recognition and current concern over the budget. The polls do not show the effect of the electoral college or how Bush’s 200 million dollars will influence the vote. There is no reason to regard Kerry as electable. The odds are against it given the performance of Northerners in the past. And yes I know, we don’t need the Deep South but we do need the Independents. Independents have been more likely to vote for a Southener in the past. Not that I’m advocating for Edwards. He’s a light weight with only one message and no substance. I think the Deaniacs and Clarkies should hang in there and fight for every delegate. After all Kerry only started supporting core Democratic positions a week or so ago. He’s running against his own record and using Clark and Dean’s positions. We need to make him fight for the nomination, not hand it to him to him on a silver platter. It’s the only way to prevent him from reverting to a Bushlite wimp.
    And the man’s sexlife doesn’t bear scrutiny. I don’t care but other people will..

  22. busdrivermike on

    HUGE turnout in Washington state today! My precinct was SRO baby! Democrats are motivated, and Bush is going BYE_BYE in november! WOO-HOO!

  23. Wagster on

    When the polls shoot up for the Dems and down for Bush, I often ask myself, could things really be going this well for us? I really can’t bring myself to trust my own judgement — I know my hope has a way of trumping my reason. As for the polls, I know they only provide a snapshot of the public’s reaction to recent circumstances. And the pundits… well, they usually all have an axe to grind.
    So where to go for reality-testing? I usually go to the Iowa Electronic Markets at http://www.biz.uiowa.edu/iem. There shares in the candidates are traded like stocks in a stock market. My belief is that the cumulative judgement of people who have money at stake in a question is likelier to be correct than any single party. (And besides, if there was a savant somewhere who was smarter than the market, it would be impossible to identify that person.)
    So what are the current results? Kerry has an 86% chance of clinching the nomination… Edwards only around 10%. And looking towards November? Over the last week the prices for Kerry and Edwards have been very similar and usually slightly higher than the prices for Bush.
    Yep, I am not dreaming!

  24. Upper left on

    Bush’s slumping numbers demonstrate the effect of a vibrant Dem primary. Let’s keep the contest going at least through March 2nd. We may have serious debates about which Dem is the strongest, but the amazing thing is the general level of agreement among the candidates. They are all hitting the populist high notes. Bush’s dive demonstrates how well this message is resonating with the voters.
    I hope the Kerry campaign is paying attention. If as expected, Kerry vanquishes the field, I hope his campaign doesn’t drop the populism and dash to the DLC center. If he starts sounding like Lieberman, he will only undermine the effectiveness and authenticity of the Dem message which is showing great effectiveness.
    I prefer Edwards over Kerry, but at a minimum, I hope these two can have a civil contest over who is the more effective messenger for a few weeks longer. Let’s spread the populist gospel across the country. The free media is worth tens of millions, and helps keep Bush off the air.

  25. Jon on

    I love it when Bush takes a beating, but the Mars thing strikes me as a little sad. Of course Bush was never serious about it–it was just a cynical ploy that was dumped without a second thought when it did not poll well. Still, a real concerted effort to go to Mars would bring about huge advances in technology, employ lots of people, and generally be cool as hell. At least it seems like a better way to spend money than on Tobacco and Sugar subsidies.
    Ah well. Next president.

  26. Andrew on

    Here’s one on that old “electibility” thing, from an article in the NYTimes in the run up to the New Hampshire primary: “George Bush has been a disaster, and if my cat had the best chance of winning the election, then I’d vote for my cat.”

  27. Erasmus on

    Another comment that resonated, reported by CNN, and voiced by Amir Gauhar, an American Muslim who is registering to vote for the first time:
    “I want to be part of a group of people who can bring about change. I feel very strongly this country is heading in the wrong direction. Our ducks are not in a row.”
    So true about them ducks!


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