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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Clarke Revelations Take Their Toll

The latest state and national polls suggest that the Richard Clarke’s revelations about the Bush administration’s mishandling of the war on terror and their obsession with invading Iraq at the expense of prosecuting that war are damaging Bush and his re-election effort. And they have certainly stopped the pro-Bush momentum detectable in horse race questions in the second and third weeks of March.
A just-released Newsweek poll has Bush’s approval rating on handling terrorism and homeland security down to 57 percent, a sharp decline from 70 percent two months ago. It is also significant that this rating is down in the 50’s–Bush’s ratings on terrorism, homeland security and related issues have been steadily in the 60’s or above in this and other public polls for a very long time.
Bush’s approval rating on Iraq is now 44 percent, with 50 percent disapproval (up from 39 percent disapproval at the end of last year). And a plurality of voters (42 percent) say they’ll be less likely to vote for Bush because of his handling of postwar Iraq, rather than more likely (34 percent).
Bush’s overall approval rating in the poll is 49 percent and his ratings on specific domestic issues are uniformly worse. His approval rating on education is 47 percent and his rating on tax policies is only 43 percent (49 percent disapprove). Worse than that, 54 percent and 58 percent, respectively, disapprove of his handling of the economy and of Medicare.
And check this out: his approval rating on handling “jobs and foreign competition” is a stunningly dismal 28 percent, with 60 percent disapproval (!).
Currently, Kerry leads Bush by one point (48-47) in this poll, slightly up from a tie one week ago. And Bush’s re-elect number has declined slightly, from 46 percent to 45 percent.
Other national polls also suggest Bush’s slippage in presidential trial heats. The Rasmussen Reports national tracking poll found a 47-43 Bush advantage over Kerry on March 19 turning into a 48-44 Kerry advantage over Bush by March 25 (though note that Kerry’s lead in that poll has declined in the last couple of days). And the latest Fox News poll, conducted March 23-24 has the Bush-Kerry race tied up 44-44. Since the Fox News polls tend to be notoriously pro-Bush (Bush typically fares about 5 points better in Fox polls than in Gallup polls), that suggests a more reliable poll like Gallup would have showed a significant Kerry lead on those survey dates. Note also that this Fox poll has Kerry-Edwards 5 points ahead of Bush-Cheney (48-43), a race they had dead-even in early March.
Turning to state polls, there is also some positive news for Kerry. The Hotline‘s round-up of state polls finds Kerry leading in states with 229 EVs and Bush leading in states with 101 EVs, for a 128 EV lead for Kerry. Notable recent results include a 10 point lead for Kerry in Iowa (51-41), a 3 point lead for Kerry in Minnesota (47-44) and a 3 point lead for Kerry in Wisconsin (46-43, even with Nader included, so Kerry’s “true” lead is probably larger).
And here’s a big one: The University of Cincinnati’s Ohio Poll has Kerry ahead 46-44 in Ohio, even with Nader included in the matchup. Kerry’s ahead by 13 points among independents, 16 points among moderates and by 34 points among young voters. Other data from the poll show that Bush has negative favorability ratings among all these groups: 33 percent favorable/52 percent unfavorable among independents; 46/51 among moderates; and 30/62 among young voters. Note also that Ohio Polls earlier this year had Bush’s approval rating on the economy at 40 percent, with 58 percent disapproval and also found that the economy was far and away the most important issue for Ohio voters.
Other interesting red state news: Bush is up by 7 points in Missouri (49-42), but is only tied with Kerry in West Virginia (46-46), even with Nader in the race. And here’s a very intriguing one: Bush is only leading Kerry by 4 points in Colorado, even in a poll conducted by a Republican pollster (McLaughlin & Associates) and even with Nader included!
A fella can dream, can’t he?

11 comments on “Clarke Revelations Take Their Toll

  1. josh on

    Clarke’s comments from bombing a Sudanese baby formula plant in 98, his commetns in ’00 to the Post that “we should have a very low barrier of evidence that can be used in court of law” and ’00 he also defended Clinton justly by saying it was so sophisticated it could not be stopped yeah a rubber boat is very sophiticated while crazy men on planes all hijacking planes at the same time should have been easily stopped. These are the comments that are taking hold.
    I am Josh and I approved this message.

  2. laura on

    What do you guys think about the Sibel Edmonds testimony? If I understand her correctly. she is saying that she was offered a bribed to change translations tocover up the fact that specific iformation about the 911 attacks had been given to Rice, Rumsfield et all, prior to the actual attack. Is this credible? laura

  3. frankly0 on

    Thought I’d offer up a sobering thought here about the stakes in the upcoming election (as if we don’t have enough already).
    When Bush ran in 2000, he did so on the pretext that he was a “compassionate conservative”, and not driven by a radical agenda. Despite this promise, and his razor thin “victory”, he turned right around and implemented probably the most extreme political agenda we have seen in our lifetimes.
    Now, simply imagine what he will do should he win by any margin AFTER pursuing his radical agenda, and when he need not worry about re-election.
    Point is, this man better go down in November, or we ain’t seen nothing yet.

  4. Larry Miller on

    The interview with Colin Powell on “Face the Nation “today (3/28) is one of the most depressing things I have seen to date. He got through a 20-minute interview without answering EVEN ONE of their questions and at the end Bubba Schieffer thanked him for his “most candid interview”. WHAT?
    We are doomed. A week ago Rumsfeld tripped over his own lies, but there will never be any truth dug out by these media clucks.

  5. Sara on

    Apparently Kerry is off the campaign trail this week for another small operation on an old shoulder injury — out of commission on Wed, and then for 4-5 days. I don’t think this will hurt him much, but hope it is the last “time our” for a time. Now is the time for the set-piece speeches on major themes — perhaps one a week for about 6 weeks. But I really don’t like the fact that the campaign has become so hot so soon. Taking down Bush’s approval points in his best areas is happening — and not because Kerry’s personally inflicting damage, more because Bush’s record is coming home to haunt him. But soon, Kerry has to pick up the themes and start driving them himself.
    Two things hearten me. First, Bush has spent a goodly chunk of money (but of course there is more where that came from) and thus far his advertising efforts have not accomplished much. Second — I would suggest you can read into the full court press against Clarke a great fear on the part of Bush and Rove. They probably have the best internal polls available, and perhsps they are seeing the unreveling of Bush’s approval numbers on War on Terrorism, Military Affairs, Foreign Policy and all much more clearly than we are with in most cases the big general national polls.

  6. frankly0 on

    A number of people have expressed disappointment that Clarke’s testimony has not taken a larger toll on Bush’s approval numbers so far.
    I think, though, that it is quite enough if the impact of Clarke’s revelations is real, but modest. Suppose that the long term effect of Clarke’s attack is to shave say 3% off the baseline of Bush’s approval numbers. THAT would be a major deal, given the tipping point on which Bush’s numbers sit. The average approval rate for Bush today is in the 48-49% range. Strip 3% from that, and one gets 45-46%. There is no question but that this lower rate would make it virtually impossible for Bush to be re-elected. Even if his numbers on a given day had a modest spike, it’s unlikely he would be above water in his re-election bid. And the ongoing perception would be of a losing campaign, which would only feed on itself.
    In short, Bush is at a stage in which anything that pushes the ceiling of his numbers down will destroy his chances for winning, and if Clarke can help bring that about, then the Clarke factor is all we need it to be.

  7. Dan on

    I don’t think it was an accident that Kerry took a week-long vacation just as the Clarke book came out and the 9/11 hearings started heating up. The 9/11 issue has been Bush’s strongest issue and Democrats have long known that they couldn’t dislodge him from it by themselves. I think the Kerry team made a calculated decision to clear the decks for the 9/11 hearings. I would even go so far as to speculate that they had an advanced copy of the book and figured that Clarke could take care of himself.
    So I’m glad that Kerry didn’t distract the distractable media from the 9/11 hearings. But I really don’t want him to pull his punches on 9/11 in the weeks ahead.

  8. rt on

    He’ll have other opportunities. But Kerry could have looked like a leader this week–and did not. Not strike three but maybe strike one.
    A few simple words from him this week would have helped a lot–words to the effect that:
    *the need for accountability for what has happened must not prevent us from keeping our eye on the ball.
    *I remain hopeful and expect that we will capture Osama bin laden soon.
    *But this fight is about far more than that.
    *It is about leading and rallying the world community–including the overwhelming majority of Muslims who want no part of the tyranny the global al qaeda network is dedicated to imposing on the world–to act now to prevent further catastrophes before it is too late.
    *The path of freedom is not for the faint of heart. But unlike the path offered by our adversaries, in it lies endless possibility for bettering our world.
    That kind of stuff, that just about any dimestore speechwriter could put together in a day.
    Richard Clarke’s book lays out the main elements of what we need to do. The Clinton Administration was on the case and was making progress. This Administration allowed itself to become distracted. If we get back on track and have a President who will be hands-on in forcing the bureaucracies to be responsive, in this post-9/11 world we should be able to make rapid headway. My own strong sense is that there are governments all over the world who will follow our lead if they have confidence in the direction of US leadership on this issue and don’t see us instead as al qaeda’s indispensable recruiting agency, reliable and steady only in ramping up animosity of millions of Muslims around the world towards us.
    I’m all the more disappointed because I feel Kerry has it in him to be the commanding and reassuring alternative Americans will elect this fall if they feel they have that choice. Randy Beers with his campaign certainly knows what needs to be done re al qaeda.
    I really don’t want to feel as though I’m allowing myself to dream a little too much these days.

  9. Peter on

    The downside, as an extremely pro-Bush article on the MSNBC/Newsweek site mentions, is that thanks to Bush’s ads more and more people believe that Kerry is insincere and will say whatever he thinks people want to hear.
    If people trust Bush to keep his word, then they will vote for him no matter what their feelings on Iraq or the economy are. They are afraid to give the Presidency to someone they think is not trustworthy.

  10. reignman on

    “Currently, Kerry leads Bush by one point (48-47) in this poll, slightly up from a tie one week ago.”
    so…basically, people hate Bush’s policies, but they may end up voting for him anyway?
    I’m not sure proposing a corporate tax cut (which hasn’t been mentioned yet in any of these mini-articles) constitutes being a tax-and-spend liberal, so Kerry must have a problem getting his message across.
    Sure, the election season is young, but if Kerry can’t get his message across…
    for instance, i read about a voter who is “concerned about the economy and the defecit” but recognized that Bush is “a strong leader, and does what he believes in.”
    I hope Kerry’s vacation is over. He’s got some serious work to do.
    Carville’s theme for the ’92 election was “if your opponent is drowning, throw the s.o.b. an anvil.”


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