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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Just How Sick Is the Public Getting of the Iraq Situation?

One reason Bush won in November is that the public wasn’t quite sick enough yet of the Iraq war. If they had been sick enough of the mess in Iraq it wouldn’t have mattered that Kerry’s plan for Iraq wasn’t particularly clear or convincing. Enough voters would have gone for Kerry simply because they wanted a change–any change–from Bush’s course in Iraq.
Moving forward, however, it remains a distinct possibility that voters will get fed up enough with Iraq that the political damage will not be not containable. Consider these data from the latest Washington Post/ABC News, as summarized by ABC News polling director, Gary Langer (note that these data were collected before the bombing of a US military mess hall in Mosul):

Fifty-six percent, a new high, now say the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, and fewer than half think the United States is making significant progress restoring civil order there. Most call Iraq unready for the election scheduled for late next month, doubt the integrity of the election process and lack confidence it’ll produce a stable government.
There are political implications: Fifty-seven percent disapprove of President Bush’s work on the situation, a point shy of his worst rating on Iraq, set during the Abu Ghraib scandal last spring. His approval for handling terrorism overall — his best issue — has dropped to 53 percent, near its low of 50 percent in June.
….Most broadly, this ABC News/Washington Post poll shows no second honeymoon for Bush after his re-election last month. The nation is as divided as ever, with Americans split, 48 percent to 49 percent, on his overall job performance — about where it’s been for most of 2004. Bush has 55 percent job approval in the “red” states he won — compared with 40 percent, 15 points lower, in the “blue” states won by Democrat John Kerry.
Comparisons to past year-end polls underscore the difficulties confronting Bush in his second term. His job approval rating is 11 points lower than a year ago, and 18 points lower than two years ago. His rating on terrorism is 17 points lower than at this time last year. There’s been a 17-point drop in the number of Americans who say the Iraq war was worth fighting, and a 10-point rise in the number who call U.S. casualties “unacceptable.”

That’s the situation now. And it seems only likely to get worse. Bush isn’t out of the woods yet on Iraq–not by a long shot.

6 comments on “Just How Sick Is the Public Getting of the Iraq Situation?

  1. SteveH on

    Being that Bush has been re-elected (legally/officially) or
    not, what differance does all this really prove or mean.
    Like it or not, unless on 1/6 the Congress (Representitives &
    at least 1 senitor) contest the election and somehow
    the contest stands and Congress selects the P & VP.
    (Kerry & Edwards ? unlikely under a Republican Congress,
    wishfull thinking anyway).
    We are now stuck with Bush for 4 more years. I’m not
    sure about wanting him impeached either. Cheny would
    then become P.
    I’m just thinking that Bush is the lesser of two eveils, for
    whatever better feeling that gives.

  2. Davis X. Machina on

    Is there a future in trading off intensiity of support for the war against breadth of support for the war, given a climate in which only 60% of the potential electorate, maximum, votes, and less than that in the next, mid-term cycle?
    The 51% solution has worked so far, why would the Republicans not stick to it? As long as they get to determine by fair means — propaganda — or foul — Diebiold — 51% of *what*, it’s good enough to win.

  3. LongTom on

    I think Ruy understates it when he says Bush is “not out of the woods on Iraq yet.” Iraq is already a fait accompli disaster–it can only get worse and more humiliating. The election will inevitably result in a Shiite-dominated government that will most likely demand an accelerated, if not immediate, US troop withdrawal. Then all the sacrifice will have been to replace Saddam with a pro-Iranian Shiite Sharia-based government that will hand over oil redevelopment contracts to Russia, France, and Germany.
    And I have to take issue with Larry when he says “God help us if we convince ourselves that in order to gain support from those currently on the other side we have to be more like the other side.”
    I’m not sure what he means by being “more like the other side.” I don’t expect Democrats to initiate political strategies with an Orwellian super-state as the ultimate goal. But, the fact is that the goal is to win elections.
    If Karl Rove had a revelation and became a Democrat overnight, would we not rejoice that the most cunning political strategist of the age was now on our side? Face it…he’s the Mariano Rivera of politics! And the Democrats lost not because the Republicans are such fascists, but because they are better at presenting their crap as ice cream. The Democratic campaign suffered an utter failure of marketing. We all know the list of mistakes. …
    But high on the list of Democratic mistakes was to think that issues matter above all else. I’m not sure Rove is as tanked up about this war as Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz. But he accepted it as the baggage he had to take into the campaign. He dealt with his handicaps very, very well.
    Let’s remember next time that the goal is to take office, not to run a “campaign we can be proud of” as the losers always say. A winning campaign is one to be proud of.

  4. Mike In MD on

    Jeez, Larry, the election was for only a four-year term. If your apocalyptic scenario is right, then Dems will certainly be returned to power in our lifetimes–quite possibly in four years. Hopefully it won’t be, but we certainly can regain power anyway.
    And if you look at the polls you’ll see not only Bush’s ratings slipping to or below pre-election levels, but you’ll see Democrats registering as equal or better than the GOP in terms of public image and party identification. That’s not what I call a “reviled” minority.

  5. Larry Jones on

    I discovered your site today and have bookmarked it so I can read it regularly. I applaud your enthusiasm and your optimism about somehow being able to return the Democrats to the majority. But I think you need to get ready for a lifetime of being the loyal opposition, a reviled minority that can only succeed by cutting deals with the governing party, or by parliamentary strategies to block the worst of what the government would like to do.
    The Bush administration no longer cares about their approval ratings, and rightly so: They don’t need another electoral win. They are now free to pursue their global domination and personal wealth accumulation goals without concern for public opinion. We should not be gloating that their poll numbers are slipping. We should be trying to obstruct them when we feel that they are wrong – on preemptive war, civil rights, social security, the death penalty and so on.
    It has taken at least a generation for the GOP to get control of the debate, but they have worked at it relentlessly behind the scenes since the 1970’s and they now are in charge of the most powerful election-winning themes: religion, bigotry, greed and blind patriotism. It will take until these people are dead before the left can hope to explain itself in ways that the general public can embrace, and God help us if we convince ourselves that in order to gain support from those currently on the other side we have to be more like the other side.

  6. jim on

    I have to wonder when torture becomes a war crime and when do war crimes become high crimes and misdemeanors under the impeachment provisions opf the constitution.
    Will the media start talking about impeachment being a correct response for enabling torture.


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