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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

No Wonder Bush Is Running as a War Leader

He just doesn’t have much else to run on. The latest Gallup poll finds economic optimism plummeting, with only 44 percent saying the economy is getting better, down from 53 percent in mid-February, which was down from 66 percent in early January.
This isn’t what’s supposed to be happening when the economy is growing at a decent rate. But it is. The typical voter just doesn’t like where this economy is going and how this recovery has proceeded. That’s why a recent front-page article in The Wall Street Journal was headlined “Improving Economic Signals May No Longer Deliver Votes“. The GDP growth rate doesn’t do much good with voters if good jobs seem to be disappearing, benefits are being cut and wages are stagnating.
As the WSJ article puts it:
[B]asic changes in the way the economy works have created a new political equation this year, loosening the old links between prosperity and a president’s popularity.
And the article presents anecdotal evidence that this changed equation is reflected in the anti-Bush leanings of swing voters in West Virginia, Pennsylvanian and Ohio. As 2000 Bush voter and self-described conservative Chuck Svokas of Weirton, WV puts it, Bush “doesn’t look like he has a grasp of what needs to be done for the American economy”. He says he’ll vote for Kerry this year.
That’s an anecdote, but the latest CBS News/New York Times poll has hard data on the deep economic hole Bush is in with voters. His approval rating on the economy is at 38 percent, with 54 percent disapproval. That’s his second straight sub-40 economic rating in this poll. Only 28 percent say the economy is getting better (note that this question includes a “staying the same” option and is therefore not directly comparable to the Gallup rating). Only 14 percent believe that Bush administration policies have increased the number of jobs in the US. Only one-fifth say the nation’s economy is better today than when Bush took office and the same low number say their family is financially better off today than it was when he took office.
People also say they are uneasy (57 percent) rather than confident (39 percent) in Bush’s ability to make the right decisions about the economy. In addition, just 39 percent say that if Bush is re-elected he is likely to increase the number of jobs and just 30 percent think the economy will get better if he gets re-elected.
Not exactly a vote of confidence. No wonder Bush’s current campaign slogan is “I’m a war leader”. Saying he’s a leader on the economy wouldn’t even pass the laugh test.

11 comments on “No Wonder Bush Is Running as a War Leader

  1. Paul on

    The latest headlines are about terrorism and so that is what we are concerned about at the moment regarding Kerry’s abilities in that area. I completely agree with both Joe and Paul C–this fight will be about national security AND the economy. We cannot afford to cede either.

  2. Alan Snipes on

    I see two conflicting strains in polling. Kerry has lost 6 points in the Rasmussen Reports tracking poll in the last 2 days. He’s down by four from being up by two. However individual state polling by this group shows Kerry with narrow leads in Ohio, Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Can someone explain?

  3. laura on

    I think the war is an issue because it is all Bush has. Therefore all of us need to be assertive truth squad members in every way we can. i really hope that anyone who has not signed the MOveon censure petition yet wil do so quickly. Also write to your Congressional delegation to get their support. Even if the censure doesn’t pass Congress the debate itself will help spread the truth about the war. Also Moveon is a good place to send money since they are willing and able to put ads out there that are much more clearly expressed and to the point than what Kerry is going to present.
    I am frustrated by the Democrats who continue to pussyfoot around the war afraid to say anything. my Congressman and one of my Senators are in this wimp catagory and, even after the exposure of Bush’s lies, are still unwilling to speak up. The Democrats have not yet cured themselves of moral cowardice.

  4. Paul C on

    I’m afraid I completely disagree. Presidential elections are almost always decided on economic issues. Jobs will mean a lot more to a swing voter in Ohio or Missouri than vague feelings about a terrorist threat. I think the electoral judo should be the opposite — use Kerry’s status as a war veteran and hero to neutralize Bush’s status in national security (actually a Republican advantage, not Bush’s personal advantage) and pound him on the economy.
    This also helps with the “October Surprise” (which may be happening as I type this.) If we do capture bin Laden between now and the election, people can breath a sigh of relief, declare the worst part of the war to be over, and turn to someone who can manage the economy. We can and should start to argue right now that the best way to remain safe and secure is for our economy to boom, create good jobs at home and reduce or eliminate our dependence on foreign oil. If we make the election turn on national security, we lose our best trump card and make ourselves hostage to Rove’s manipulation of world events.

  5. Oberon on

    I second Joe. My guess (completely unsupported by facts, of course) is that national security is threshold issue for swing voters.
    It’s like judo — use your opponent’s strength against him. National security is Bush’s greatest strength with voters. Kerry and his supporters should keep criticizing Bush for failing to pursue the fight against Al Qaeda and terrorism. If the facts and the message get through, Bush loses.
    (I want to throw up every time a right-winger argues that if Bush loses, Osama wins. Please. Bush won’t even mention Osama’s name.)

  6. Joe Zainea on

    I went over the numbers in the Gallup survey and I see big problems for John Kerry. What came through to me was that voters believe George Bush is doing an OK job of protecting America from terrorist acts and that he’s a focused and strong leader.
    Kerry’s problem is that those views trump all of the negagtive perceptions about Bush and the economy, the deficit, his tax policies and his handling of health care and social security.
    Bush is talking about national security because he knows that issue is his trump card and that he can win with it, even though he has put the economy and our future in the ditch.
    Kerry will need to fight on that national security terrain because the economy and all the other issues that would seem to favor him aren’t going to move appreciably one way or the other between now and election day so as to weaken Bush any further. In fact they could move in the direction of helping Bush, although that doesn’t seem likely.
    Simply put, Kerry needs to do three things: first, he should name his choice for Veep as soon as possible to rebut Cheney on national security. That means it needs to be someone credible; say Wesley Clark or Bob Graham. Second, he needs to be speaking about homeland security every day in ways that the American people can relate to. He needs to demonstrate that our security could be enhanced under a President Kerry. Third, he needs to dispatch surrogates with national security credentials into all of the major media markets for the duration of the campaign to point out Bush’s mistakes and Kerry’s obviously superior plan of agressively fighting terrorism.
    Events between now and election day will have a greater bearing on the outcome of the contest than any voter attitudes on social and economic policies. Kerry has gained all the benefit from those issues that he will ever get. The trick for Kerry is to position himself to mitigate losses on security events and leverage gain from those events that can be seen as helpful.

  7. Peter on

    It’s astonishing how many people out there believe that it’s all the Democrats fault that the economy isn’t doing better, or that the Democrats are lying and if people can’t find work it’s because they are lazy bums.
    People are going to be bullied into voting based on hatred of gays and based on terrorism. Rove was bragging about this yesterday. Those are the 2 big issues and he says they are already getting more and more popular. And he’s right. Just look at the glee in the media over Kerry’s “foreign leaders” flap. Or the federal government banning any anti-discrimination laws for gay employees. Or the Tenn. county which is going to keep gays out of their town.

  8. Grep Agni on

    I don’t know about the large number of independents, but the large preponderence of Bush voters is probably due to people misreporting their 2000 presidential votes. People like to vote for winners, and after any election the percentage of people who *claim* to have voted for the winning candidate is higher than the percentage that actually voted for him/her.
    I don’t know whether these people are lying or just remembering incorrectly. I suspect both.

  9. Debra on

    Could you please comment as someone who knows about polling what it means when the number of Republicans in the poll is @386 and the number of Dems is less at @368 and the number of independents seems enormous at @441. (This is from memory)
    Second, when asked about their 2000 votes, the percentage of Bush voters at 375 WAS SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER THAN THE GORE VOTERS AT 27%. What impact does that have on the preference breakdown for 2004. Is there some weighting thing to make up for that?
    Given the preponderance of Bush to Gore voters does it seem significant that Bush is polling below his 2000 numbers?
    Why are the Nader numbers so high? And how high were they in 2002.


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