washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Kerry Ahead on Handling the US Campaign Against Terrorism (!)

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll suggests rather strongly that President Bush has failed to generate much political benefit from a series of events that has included a good jobs report, some diplomatic progress on the Iraq situation and the funeral of Ronald Reagan. In the poll, conducted June 17-20, Kerry is ahead of Bush among RVs by 8 points (53-45).
Any more bounces like this one and John Kerry may not have to bother to campaign at all.
And in perhaps the poll’s most startling result, the public now says it prefers Kerry over Bush on who would do a better job handling the US campaign against terrorism (48-47). That’s a big change from late May when Bush was leading Kerry 52-39–which, in turn, was down from a 21 point Bush lead the month before.
I think I detect a pattern here. Kerry is also ahead of Bush on handling health care (+21), taxes (+13!), prescription drug benefits for the elderly (+12), education (+10), international affairs (+8), the economy (+5) and the federal budget deficit (+4). In fact, the only area where the public says it prefers Bush over Kerry is, interestingly enough, on handling the situation in Iraq, where Bush leads Kerry by 5 (50-45).
I say “interestingly enough” because other data in the poll show that people are not at all happy with how Bush is currently handling the situation in Iraq. His approval rating on Iraq, while improved over last month in the same poll, is still solidly negative at 44 percent approval/55 percent disapproval. Moreover, the poll has the most negative reading yet on whether “the war with Iraq was worth fighting”: 47 percent say yes, compared to 52 percent who say no. And a remarkable 71 percent now say that there has been an “unacceptable number of US military casualties in Iraq”–also the most negative reading yet.
A host of other indicators also show the most negative results so far, including whether the war with Iraq has “contributed to the long-term security of the United States” (down to 51 percent), damaged US relations with other countries with other countries who opposed the war (up to 63 percent), contributed to long-term peace and stability in the Mideast (down to 42 percent) and damaged the United States’ image in the rest of the world (up to 76 percent). And a high point has been reached (42 percent) in the number of Americans who say we should withdraw our military forces from Iraq “even if that means that civil order is not restored there”.
Bush’s approval ratings outside of the situation in Iraq are also unimpressive to downright poor. His overall approval rating has remained at 47 percent over the last month, according to the poll, while his disapproval rating has risen slightly to 51 percent.
That’s bad enough for a president who had hoped to start recovering politically. But the real shocker is the drop in his approval rating on handling the US campaign against terrorism: down from 58 percent approval/39 percent disapproval last month to 50 percent approval/48 percent disapproval today.
Of Bush’s other approval ratings, only one, education, breaks 50 percent, coming in at 51 percent approval/45 percent disapproval. The others are just plain bad: the economy (46/53, barely changed from the last two months); international affairs (43/55); taxes (42/54); prescription drug benefits for the elderly (40/50); the federal budget deficit (39/56); and health care (39/57).
Doesn’t the public approve of anything? Sure: Bill Clinton. His approval rating is up 7 points in the last year to a healthy 62 percent rating today. It would seem that the public’s increased misgivings about Bush’s performance are making the Clinton era, despite Clinton’s personal foibles, look pretty good by comparison.
I think they’re onto something.

22 comments on “Kerry Ahead on Handling the US Campaign Against Terrorism (!)

  1. Mimiru on

    Well he’s going to be insulted and take his polls and go home if you call him “Rux.”
    Oh by the way, according to Judis and Dryer (Marshall’s tech) Ruy will be doing a stint over at Talkingpointsmemo in a few days.

  2. JJF on

    There are enough polls out there to satisfy just about everyone…some to give you relief, some to scare the hell out of you.
    The EDM site is usually a good place to visit for a pro-Dem view, and no doubt there have been good reasons to be optimistic with developments over the past couple of months.
    Another site I check occasionally is the Electoral Predictor 2004 site — http://www.electoral-vote.com — which breaks out the different states. It has been good for Blue for weeks…until today! Ouch. Suddenly it registers Bush in the Electoral vote lead. All that Kerry needs is a swing in Michigan, which is doable, but I am a bit distressed to see the recent polls show an upswing for Red.
    Looks like a lot of the 6/22 data is based on Zogby.
    I’d be interested to see if Rux or anyone would like to comment.

  3. Ll58 on

    I dug into the data in the ABC/WaPo poll, and I immediately noticed something that the Post story ignored: On question after question, Bush is doing fairly well in the South and absolutely HORRIBLY everywhere else. Sometimes the Midwest numbers are closer to those for the East and West, but most of the time the other three regions are very heavily weighted towards Kerry and the Democrats. If this is accurate, and continues until November, it could mean an Electoral College blowout of near-1964 proportions, even if the popular vote is much closer. And if Democrats outside the South can nationalize this election, perhaps it is an opportunity to take seats from Republicans in Congress who vote with Bush again and again, despite their constituents’ opposition to him.

  4. Jeff on

    I don’t put much faith in the Harris poll. It’s an interactive poll, not the typical ones we hear about. In fact, I don’t put much faith in polls that count “likely voters” rather than “registered voters.” I mean, it’s so subjective anyway. How do they know who is going to vote or not? This was one of the reasons the polls were so skewed in favor of Bush before the 2000 election. The fact that “likely voters” tend to push up Bush’s numbers by 6% or so is a clear reason to believe that most of these pollsters believe that more Republicans will vote instead of Democrats.
    What on Earth makes them believe that? Everything I have seen so far shows a Democratic base which is far more energized than the Republican base.
    The other polls showing “Bush ahead” are usually within 1 or 2%. Or the margin of error, and again using the “likely voter”. There have been more than enough polls to show the opposite for any reasonable person to believe that Bush is ahead at this point.
    The one thing that strikes me about every poll – regardless of Bush being ahead or behind is the fact that he seems to always poll at 44%.
    Notice that, he polls at 44%. So some polls will show him ahead of Kerry: 44% to 41%, while others will show Bush behind 47% to 44%, but the constant is always Bush at 44%.
    I believe that 44% is a ceiling for Bush. The undecideds always go to the challenger. THEY ALWAYS DO. That means this election is not as close as “polls” have us believe.
    Remember Carter 1980. In 1980, Carter and Reagan were actually “tied” according to polls throughout most of the year. With the exception of the “Republican bounce” after their convention in Detroit. When Reagan took a 12% lead.
    But had Democrats looked at the polls more closely they would have seen a situation where Carter was polling at about 40 to 42% consistently. With Reagan polling at about the same and John Anderson polling at about 15%.
    The Anderson vote collapsed in the end to 8% – which was still a good showing for a third party candidate. Carter’s vote stuck at about 41% and Reagan’s vote “surged” to 51%.
    The mistake that Carter made. The same mistake Bush/Rove make now and (if you are following it) the same mistake that Paul Martin is making in Canada right now. Is that these incumbants believe that the election is about the challenger, when in fact an election IS ALWAYS about the incumbant.
    Carter went around telling people how crazy Reagan was. This supressed Reagan’s potential vote for a time, as people decided to wait to hear more from him. The two times they got to see and gauge Reagan for themselves: The Republican convention and after the debates – Reagan’s lead jumped to 10% or so. Which is what he finished with.
    The same was true of Bob Dole in 1996. He trailed Clinton by double-digits throughout most of that campaign, but in the end after the GOP convention and after the debates he “picked up” to a 6 to 8% deficit. He ended up losing by 8%.
    So the best gauge for Kerry will come after the Democratic convention. When the “undecideds” really get a look at him. If his numbers jump and he leads Bush by 10% or more after that, I think it is fair to say the election is over and Kerry will win substantially.
    P.S. Some people may wonder about 1992. The same dynamic was true then as well. Clinton came out of the Democratic convention with a 18% lead. But that was without Perot in the race, who had dropped out a few days earlier.
    Once Perot was back in the race, Clinton’s numbers were the ones affected. Especially after the debate. The myth that Perot cost Bush the election is just that – a myth. Had Perot not been in the race, Clinton would have won a substantial double-digit landslide.

  5. Allan Bartlett on

    You guys are hilarious.You don’t bother to mention the latest NPR,Harris,or AP polls that show Bush starting to develop a small lead.At worst for Bush,it is a dead heat right now.Let’s be a little more honest guys.

  6. T.J. Pempel on

    These polls are very promising, but before we rush to Kerry’s coronation it is important to recall how small his margins are in most purple states. One or two shifts in events could move these numbers–in either direction. And June 30 could well be a plus for Bush. While the situation there is chaotic and will probably get worse, US casualties are likely to decline since US troops have pulled back in so many tough cities and simply turned control over to warlords, Baathists or fundamentalists like Sadr. I fear that American voters may well be easily duped into reading such a situation as “success.”
    And don’t forget Bin Laden. He’s surely in Karl Rove’s basement waiting to be pulled out for the cameras in an October surprise.

  7. WallyCoxLives on

    A couple of points:
    1) A June 30 handover of power that goes well will give Bush a bounce, and it may be significant. If the handover occurs and things remain as muddled and dangerous over there, or get worse, as they are now, look for a drop. The Bushies have put so much into the June 30 date that it will be a big deal when it happens. I expect a big buildup over it in the next week if they expect it to go well or it will be sotto voce if they realize it will be a disaster.
    2) I’ve always been an independent until this year. I joined the Democratic Party, joined a Democratic Club, and have been working actively for the successofmy local Dem pols and for Kerry. I met a lot of people in the Dem Club who say exactly what I said when I joined, that Bush made me a hardcore Democrat and Bush made me become active after so many years away from active participation in politics (I always voted, but I was only an activist for a little while during and after college). I think Bush has done more to energize his NOT base than to energize his base. Every sop he throws to his base is like he’s yanking meet off the table of the independents as they see where his real priorities lie.

  8. Marcus Lindroos on

    Well, I am pleasantly surprised that the “Reagan bump” so far has turned out to be (at best-) extremy small. In fact, it isn’t even visible in most polls! I guess this proves that the several months’ long backlog of negative news for “Shrub” won’t be erased from the minds of voters overnight. Hopefully, this also means it will take a long time before voters start thinking positively about the economy…
    BTW, there seems to be some speculation about whether Clinton’s memoirs (and his re-emergence on the national stage) will help or hurt Kerry. I still hope and believe the former is more likely, although TNR’s Jonathan Chait worries that it will allow Republicans to draw attention to Monicagate etc. contrasting the squeaky-clean moral certitude of “Shrub”. Yeah, right. The only people who prefer the peace and prosperity of the 1990s to today’s “moral clarity” are Republicans. I think independent voters increasingly will appreciate Clinton’s legacy as the memory of Ken Starr, Lewinsky & co. starts to fade. Unlike in 2000, “Slick Bill” will probably be campaigning hard for the Democratic candidate and it won’t be as controversial as it was four years ago. Another reason to feel optimistic about Kerry’s chances e.g. in Arkansas.

  9. theCoach on

    Is it possible to think that we could be witnessing the collapse of the (R)s? Despite absolutely horrible performance governing, they have held together support due to nationalistic tendencies brought on by 9-11, and exploited in the war on terorrism. Despite this, the electorate seemed relatively even. Now, as the fog of war lifts and the raising-alert-level-to-orange trick loses its effectiveness, the electorate is beginning to digest the governing record. The coming demographics are, as Ruy has ably shown, a disaster for (R)s (especially the kind running things now). If it looks like the USS Bush the Smaler is sinking, and sinking fast, what is going to happen to the moderate (R)s in Blue or Purple states?
    If the Texas Republicans lose their Mojo what are they going to run on?
    Moderate (R)s have been overridden by the more extreme members of their caucus.

  10. PhillyGuy on

    The ABC News/Washington Post poll is another prime example of Independents and their role in moving this election decidedly in Kerry’s direction. The Washington Post website has a tool where you can observe every question/response through various demographics, including party ID. It’s breathtaking to see just how much Independent voters dislike Bush. It’s also quite evident that while Republicans are almost completely in Bush’s corner (and the source of almost all of his support in the poll), Kerry still has room to grow among Democrats. I am confident that Kerry’s Democratic support will grow once their convention has celebrated him for four full days (as always happens to the party nominee). Things are looking promising indeed…
    By the way, according to the poll, public interest in the election right now is equal to the public’s interest three WEEKS before the 2000 election. Don’t be surprised to see high ratings for the Democratic Convention next month.

  11. FLS on

    Jon Stewart was on fire tonight guys. If you guys want talking point watch tonights episode of Comdey Central the Interview of Stephen Hayes 6/21/04
    Chalk another one up for Jon Stewart
    I saw it. Stephen (never heard of the guy before) Hayes was speechless and not becasue he didn’t get a chance to speak, but because his arguement was soooo weak. As weird as it may sound but I actually felt pitty for him. Within his circles (neocons) his arguement probably made all the sense in the world, but when put to the test … and believe me if the Daily Show could debunk Hayes and the neocons arguements (with so little effort) just imagine how weak the neocons positions are. In that interview Hayes himself looked like he might have changed his mind (but then again neocons never do even when their wrong)
    Chalk another one up for Jon Stewart. Something that’s beyond the capability of the media and journalists. Why is this???
    Stewart also pointed out two of Cheney’s and Bushes biggest lies that they denied sayingbut as always Jon has the incriminating video.
    Go to Comedy Central to see the two lies this episode will be up soon. It’ll probably be posted on 6/20. Go here http://www.comedycentral.com/tv_shows/thedailyshowwithjonstewart/videos.jhtml
    Jon Stewart said something to this effect
    Jon Stewart:
    “Here’s the problem with preemption, here’s 4 justifications for it.
    1] Weapon’s of mass destruction
    2] Inflammatory rhetoric against the US
    3] Harbors terrorists
    4] oppresses its own people
    Given these four things, you can’t tell me which countries actually engage in them.”
    Stephen Hayes: “UHHH, Good Point”.

  12. Billmon on

    “It would seem that the public’s increased misgivings about Bush’s performance are making the Clinton era, despite Clinton’s personal foibles, look pretty good by comparison.”
    Like The Onion said when Shrub took office: At last our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is over.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.