Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The General is happy to take his lumps when he deserves them, and this is one of those times. Back just before Ronald Reagan died, I predicted that the Boy King would pick up the Reagan Torch and enjoy a temporary bump in the polls. Well, I was right that Dubya grabbed that Reagan Torch (and then some), but I was sure wrong about that bump in popularity.
President Bush's job approval rating has fallen to the lowest level of his presidency, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. . . .

The 42 percent of Americans who say they approve of the way Mr. Bush is handling his job is the lowest such figure in a Times/CBS News survey since the beginning of Mr. Bush's presidency in January 2001; 51 percent say they disapprove.

Over the past 25 years, according to pollsters, presidents with job approval ratings below 50 percent in the spring of election years have generally gone on to lose. Mr. Bush's father had a 34 percent job approval rating at this time in 1992.

Similarly, 45 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of Mr. Bush himself, again the most negative measure the Times/CBS Poll has found since he took office. And 57 percent say the country is going in the wrong direction, another measure used by pollsters as a barometer of discontent with an incumbent.
Kerry's numbers are pretty weak, too. For example, a plurality (37%) of those who say they'll vote for him are doing so only because they hate the other guy(s) more. Nonetheless, this election is frankly a referendum on Bush. As long as Kerry is "above the bar" (and he clearly is), he has a chance, a chance that should improve as time goes on.

Ignore the national popularity numbers and get on to what really matters:
In the 18 states viewed by both parties as the most competitive � and thus the subject of the most advertising expenditures and visits by the candidates � the race was equally tight. Forty-five percent of voters in those states said they would support Mr. Kerry, and 43 percent said they would back Mr. Bush. Indeed, on a host of measures, the poll found little difference in public opinion between the nation as a whole and that of voters in the competitive states.
Bush is doing flat-out terribly on Iraq and foreign policy, the very issues that were supposed to be his strong suits for the election. His Iraq approval rating is now just 36%, less than half of his level in April 2003, and his foreign policy approval rating is 39%. He's hanging in there on terrorism at 52%, but that's down from 68% as recently as January.

And how about that Dick Cheney? His personal approval rating is 21%, less than half of his historical high -- which was before the 2000 election!

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