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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Does Libby Commutation Issue Have Legs?

How broad is the outrage over President Bush’s commutation of Libby’s sentence? And is the outrage likely to last through November ’08?
No way to gauge the intensity fade factor at this juncture. But SurveyUSA has a new interactive voice response poll conducted on July 2nd, measuring how respondents feel about Libby’s free ride, and Pollster.com‘s Charles has an analysis. He reports that of 825 respondents familiar with the Libby case and presidential commutation,

…79% of liberals wanted to see Libby serve his sentence, with only 9% approving Bush’s decision and 11% wanting a full pardon. Moderates were only a little less bent on punishment: 69% wanted prison time, while 19% approved the commutation and 11% wanted a full pardon. But what surprises me is the Conservatives. They broke into rough thirds: 31% wanted a complete pardon and 31% approved the decision, but a surprising 35% thought Libby should have served his prison sentence. For all the talk of the President needing to respond to a conservative base fired up for a full pardon, this evidence suggests the President has failed to satisfy two-thirds of that base.

Interesting, and Charles also notes:

Democrats favored prison by 77%, approved the commutation by 14% and 8% thought a full pardon was called for. Fifty-six percent of Independents wanted jail, with 20% approving the President and 21% wanting a pardon. But again when we come to the Republican base, we find a really surprising 40% saying the Libby should have served time in prison. Thirty-two percent supported Bush’s decision while 26% wanted a pardon.

Certainly that translates into broad disapproval in the short time horizon, before spin doctors in both parties give it a thorough workout. Dems will no doubt remind voters of this travesty at every opportunity during the next 16 months. It may not be as potent an issue as President Ford’s pardon of Nixon, but at least there is some basis to expect that Libby’s free ride will benefit Dems on election day next year.

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