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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bush’s Post-Election Blahs

Like many of you, no doubt, I haven’t exactly been paying a lot of attention to polls (other than exit polls) since November 3, sort of like a guy who can’t stand the thought of red meat after a year on the Atkins diet. But after forcing myself to read tonight’s story on the new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, and then backtracking to read Ruy Teixeira’s post yesterday on the latest Ipsos-AP poll–well, I guess it’s time to get a little protein back on the menu.
CNN’s headline trumpets a rise in Bush’s job approval rating. But the real news (reinforced by the Ipsos poll) is that Bush actually isn’t getting the post-election, pre-inaugural “bump” that winners usually get, and in terms of the two big stories that will likely dominate political discourse in the immediate future, Iraq and Social Security, he’s doing more poorly than ever.
In the Gallup poll, which gives Bush an overall job approval rating of 52 percent, only 42 percent of respondents favor his handling of Iraq, while 56 percent disapprove. Similarly, only 41 percent give a positive evaluation of his handling of Social Security, while 52 percent disapprove. Only 18 percent agree with Bush’s characterization of Social Security as a program “in crisis” (though, as just-say-no Democrats should note, 53 percent believe it “has major problems.”).
As Ruy reports, Bush’s numbers are even weaker in the Ipsos-AP poll, including an anemic 50 to 48 approval/disapproval ratio in his overall handling of “foreign policy issues and the war on terrorism.”
Sure, GOPers will try to use the Inaugural hoopla, and a no-doubt-well-rehearsed Inaugural Address full of Gerson’s finest uplift, to create a sense of momentum going into the Iraqi elections (if they occur) and a highly fractious congressional session. But they don’t simply face a determined Democratic opposition–they face a public that’s not likely to mistake Bush’s narrow election as any kind of mandate for doing the stuff they dislike even more than the stuff he did before.

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