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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Are Independents Giving Up on Bush?

I covered the basics of the new Washington Post poll yesterday. Today I want to comment on the notably negative views of Bush expressed by independents in this poll (the Post makes basic crosstabular information from their polls available interactively on their website, a facility which is well worth checking out).
These views are so negative that they suggest a decisive majority of independent voters may be in the process of giving up on Bush–becoming more and more convinced that his performance in office has been too poor to merit re-election and that Kerry is almost certainly a better bet than he to run the country. The more that perception settles in among these voters, the more the GOP will have to rely on big Republican turnout that is not countered by big Democratic turnout to win. I consider the latter a highly unlikely scenario in this election year.
In this poll, Bush’s overall approval rating among independents is just 44 percent, with 56 percent disapproval. And in the two critical areas of Iraq (36/62) and the economy (35/65) his ratings among this group are truly dreadful and much worse than among the public as a whole.
And there is not a single issue area in this poll on which independents prefer Bush to Kerry. In fact, the closest Bush comes to Kerry is on the situation in Iraq and on the US campaign against terrorism, where he lags Kerry by a comparatively modest 5 points. In all other areas, Kerry has impressive double-digit leads over Bush: international affairs (13 points); health care (17 points); the economy (17 points); taxes (19 points); the federal budget deficit (20 points); education (21 points); and prescription drug benefits for the elderly (26 points).
How can Bush win with this kind of sentiment among independents? I don’t believe he can. But how well positioned is Bush at this point to play to the independent voter and turn these numbers around? Not well I think given the hard-line conservatism he’s practiced since he was elected. The (independent) chickens may be coming home to roost.

17 comments on “Are Independents Giving Up on Bush?

  1. CurCam on

    I think independents voted for Bush because they believed the propaganda that he would be a real conservative and not expand the government. During the debates, he said he was against nation-building. Both turned out to be lies. It is a switch to hear that the Democrats are for fiscal responsibility while the Republicans spend like “drunken sailors.” And its a switch for the Republican party to be taking us into limited war adventures.
    We are headed in the wrong direction – away from what the founders wanted for this country and towards socialism. The only difference in the two parties is the flavor. Government tells us we’re obese and need to go on a diet? That’s hypocrisy. We are supposed to be a Republic of very limited government. Independents are looking at Kerry. But can he bring back the jobs lost due to China PMFN or NAFTA? No more than Bush can. So we’re stuck between two choices – bad and worse. Independents want a strong third party but we’re not getting one.

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  2. Mimiru on

    Well that makes sense. You have to make sure the consumers are solvent enough to continually consume or things go south real fast.

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  3. Michael on

    What’s wrong with spending? Under the label “spending” lives are saved, schools are financed, the military is kept equipped, health care is provided. There is nothing wrong with spending, as long as it’s efficient and motivated. To spend you’ll have to tax. This is common sense.
    I don’t but into all these ideologically motivated (rich people who want’s to keep their inherited wealth) lies about taxes and government spending. Noone else should.
    I’ve worked in the private sector for 20 years and boy, talk about inefficient spending… all image, no content. More money on propaganda (advertising), less on product quality. Unfortunately this is often the truth about free markets.
    (This is not to say that taxes can be negative, for example when they stifle growth and entrepreneurial efforts – however this is not so much about the levels of taxation as who you tax. I’m all for lesser taxes – for people with low
    incomes)

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  4. Mimiru on

    Give me a “tax and spend” liberal who at least pays for what he spends rather than a Republican who maxes out his credit card like a drunken bum in a liquor store.

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  5. dean on

    Tim with a capital “T”: Why get on my case when the public perception of Democrats is “tax and spend”? You didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, but if you read what I wrote, you would see I was talking about public perception. Reagan tripled the national debt while spouting off about “tax and spend Democrats.” And he made the charge stick even though it was false. That perception has been worked and reworked since FDR.

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  6. Allan Bartlett on

    As a loyal republican,I must say that Bush has been horrible about limiting the growth in government spending.It is an institutional problem IMO.The democrats are no better on spending and I would argue that they are worse.Electing Kerry is just re-arranging the deck chairs on the titanic.We are not under taxed in the US and especially out here in California.

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  7. tim on

    fiscal conservative?!….. Clinton was just lucky in his timing – sitting on the top of a cycle. I just don’t trust Kerry. Too many constituents make up dem party – so much of the base is blindly for a democrat (minorities for example) Then to justify their selection, they sieze on the hate bush wagon

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  8. Tim on

    Dean.. the Dem’s have been out in front on the fiscal responsibility issue since Clinton. Furthermore, Bush is backed into a colossal corner on this issue. He’s racked up historical deficits that dwarf even Reagan’s record. There’s absolutely no way that Bush can turn the tables on Kerry on this front.. if Robert Rubin has anything to do with it.
    The issue of fiscal responsibility is an important one to me. As a young person, I view deficits as essentially future taxes on me. It is a burden on our government and our economy that will only materialize many years from now.. when those politicians responsible are retired or dead. My generation will be left with higher taxes and a government that is a drag on future growth in the economy. It is a legacy that will shame both Repug’s and Dem’s.
    At the same time.. I wouldn’t put it past Bush to try and seize this issue. Nothing is past this admin. I think the release of the torture memos is evidence that the WH hopes that people aren’t paying attention to the details.. that they just see the headlines.
    Go to this link to see coverage of Kerry’s proposals for fiscal responsibility..
    http://www.johnkerry.com/pressroom/clips/news_2004_0408a.html

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  9. bakho on

    Opinion on Bush has soured because of the lack of job creation. That is not likely to become a positive for Mr. Bush in time for election.

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  10. we are liberals on

    Why do we call it “fiscal conservatism”??? Conservatism should not figure in any positive statement whatsoever. Fiscal responsibility is the word to use! Please

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  11. dean on

    As I look at the article, I am struck by the passage regarding Bush’s ability to turn his numbers around because of his hard-line conservatism. I think we need to look at what must be done if he does take a different tactic in order to turn those numbers around. Suppose he begins to play the fiscal conservative (fiscal responsibility is NOT a mark of his conservatism). On that front, Democrats remain, because of perception but not reality, vulnerable. It is helpful if the Democratic Party got out in front of fiscal conservatism right now, to prevent a move in that direction from Bush. There are other areas in which the party needs to get out in front to prevent Bush from stealing the center. Bush has already attempted to steal Kerry’s position on Iraq and make it his own by calling for more international involvement. The only thing preventing Bush from really stealing that position is that the international community despises Bush. Even so, he did score a coup in the way of perception by getting his four bogus UN resolutions passed. Only the rush of failures in Iraq prevented him from fully capitalizing on that.

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  12. S Robinson on

    Paul,
    Bush has been mixing the optimism ads with the ‘war president’ ads in Ohio. The negative ads about Kerry stopped a couple months back. But I haven’t seen too many Bush ads lately. Maybe he’s holding back his money, or running his ads in other states.
    Kerry has been running a health care spot and another one where he talks a little bit about why he wants to be president. It’s not really very optimistic, though, IMHO.
    MoveOn.org has been running many ads as well, probably more than either Bush or Kerry. Guess they have all the money! I haven’t seen any GOP advocacy group (is that the correct term?) ads, but I’m in Columbus and that doesn’t mean they aren’t running in Cincy or Cleveland.

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  13. Paul C on

    I was visiting my mother in Pennsylvania this week-end and caught some of the campaign ads (we dont’ get them here in Massachusetts). Bush’s ad was focused on his optimism regarding the economy. Is this a significant change in focus from being “the war president?” Or has he mixed in this type of ad all along? I would love to hear from anyone in a swing state.

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  14. Alan on

    “asshat.” you must be a fark.com reader.
    I think that if W had to deal with the same press attitude that Clinton did, you would be seeing more than half the Republicans voting for Kerry.
    I really don’t want a close win for Kerry. The Republicans have been shown more than willing to consider any such executive “illegitimate” and further willing to use any extra-constitutional means to unseat them. Can just the independent vote deliver a decisive win?

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  15. eagler on

    Not all of us independents are chickens. Until recently, I had the luxury of being able to vote like it was the NFL draft – go for best athelete, not considering the position (yes that seems like loser language to me too).
    However, I used to be able to be able to vote for the best person for the job, whether they were democrats, republicans, greens, libertarians, or whatever.
    Because I live in Washington State, I no longer currently have the option of voting for whomever I want. That sucks, but I can also sign the initiative which will restore the order I grew up with.
    Initiatives are like any other tool which is capable of harming its owner: it’s good when the blade is closed; watch out, otherwise.
    This is one of the few initiatives I am willing to sign thanks to Tim “asshat” Eyeman, the Satan worshipping liar and “anti-tax” apocolyte. No, I’m not bitter.

    Reply

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