The Self Made Pundit
Friday, July 18, 2003
HOW LOW CAN BUSH GO?: The Zogby poll released today on likely voters’ views of Bush and his policies indicate that Bush better hurry up and distract voters from his actual job performance if he wants pundits to keep writing vapid articles about how unbeatable he will be in 2004.
In his poll of 1,004 likely U.S. voters conducted from July 16 to 17, Zogby found that likely voters are not particularly enamored of Bush, whom they give low marks on nearly all aspects of his job.
Not only has Bush's overall job performance rating slipped in the past month from 58 percent positive to 53 percent positive, but Bush has dropped below 50 percent on nearly all ratings of his performance in office. In fact, with the exception of dealing with terrorism, Bush’s ratings on specific issues are, to put it delicately, in the toilet:
Voters rate only President Bush's performance in the war on terrorism positively, 59% - 40%. Opinion is split on foreign policy, 49% positive compared to 50% negative. His performance on health care is rated 36% positive, 61% negative; the environment, 31% positive, 65% negative; taxes, 45% positive, 54% negative; and jobs and the economy, 33% positive, 66% negative.
What may be even more ominous for Bush is the decline is his favorability ratings. Since he first declared for the presidency years ago, Bush has consistently been weak on the issues, finding majorities either lukewarm or disapproving of his positions on most domestic issues. Bush’s main strength as a presidential candidate has always been his supposed image as a likable, down-to-earth man of good character. Thanks in large part to the soft treatment he usually receives from the media, Bush’s favorability ratings have remained high despite his having the most fundamentally dishonest administration since Nixon’s.
Bush's uranium hoax, however, may be acting as a tipping point, causing people (and even White House correspondents) to finally acknowledge his administration’s pervasive arrogance and deceitfulness. Whatever the cause, Bush’s unfavorable ratings have jumped 10 points in the past month. According to Zogby’s June survey, 66 percent of likely voters viewed Bush favorably as a person and 32 percent viewed him unfavorably. Now, Bush’s favorable rating has dropped to 57 percent and his unfavorable rating has leaped to 42 percent.
Zogby considers Bush's declining favorability rating to be potentially fatal to his presidency given the unpopularity of his policies:
Pollster John Zogby: "What has been propping up the President in the past few months is his personal favorability rating. To me, what is most ominous is this alone has slipped 9 points in the past month. If he cannot count on a large majority of Americans to like him personally, this could spell doom for his re-election hopes because he has little support for his overall performance and how he is rated on the issues."
Bush’s negative ratings are already eroding his support to win election (as opposed to his appointment in 2000) to the presidency in 2004. Those pundits that claim that Bush will be nearly impossible to beat in 2004 don’t know what they are talking about. A majority of voters currently have no desire to extend Bush’s maladministration for another four years. As Zogby notes:
For the first time, more likely voters (47%) say it's time for someone new in the White House, compared to 46% who said the President deserves to be re-elected.
Now it’s time for the obligatory caveat about how a lot can happen in the next 16 months, and Bush could well be elected in a landslide if America’s reconstruction of Iraq goes smoothly and if the economy rebounds as projected by the Bush administration. (And if lies could fly, Bush would be long gone.)
Now that I’ve gotten the required weasel words out of the way, I can tell you what I really believe. I think Bush’s popularity is likely to continue sinking. According to Zogby, only 33 percent of likely voters give Bush a positive rating on jobs and the economy – which other recent polls have found to the most important issue to voters. As bad as this number is for Bush, it could well get worse.
Bush’s disastrous economic policy of massive tax cuts for the rich has returned America to massive deficits. Since the rich are not spending that money right back into the economy – as the poor and middle class would do if the tax cuts had been tilted toward them – Bush’s deficit spending is resulting in virtually no stimulus to the economy. As a result, we are experiencing a jobless recovery. Not only has Bush produced the biggest deficits in American history, but his administration is on track to be the first presidential administration since Hoover’s to result in a net loss in employment.
Bush’s claim that his tax cuts for the wealthy will create jobs is the equivalent of his State of the Union claim regarding Iraq’s supposed attempts to purchase Uranium in Africa. It was just something to say build support for what he wanted to do anyway. Bush habitually seeks support for his policies by offering justifications because they sound persuasive, not because they are true.
Bush engages in this deceitful tactic so often, he is bound to get caught occasionally, even by a complacent press. This month Bush’s uranium lie tripped him up. I think there is a fair chance that Bush’s lies about the economy will become harder and harder to ignore as the deficit balloons past the Bush administration’s dishonest projections and the projected robust economic recovery never materializes.
Sure, Bush and his brain (Karl Rove) will do their best to distract voters with fear-inducing talk of terrorist threats. But I don’t think Bush’s actual record on national security – as opposed to his bravado – is so strong that the Democratic presidential candidate will not be able to battle Bush on this issue. If the Democrats are able to at least remain competitive on the issue of national security, I doubt that Bush will be able to distract a majority of Americans from his singular achievement of combining the honesty of the Nixon White House with the prosperity of the Hoover administration.
By this time next year, Bush may look wistfully back to the days when 33 percent of likely voters approved of his performance on jobs and the economy and 46 percent wanted to see him elected president in 2004.