Interesting article on the front page of today’s WSJ, noting the “conundrum” George W. Bush faces in his re-election race: “The same policies that have secured his conservative base and given him a slight lead in the presidential race are now complicating his bid to win over crucial undecided voters.”
No surprise there. The “Undecideds” tend to be moderate pragmatics, far less interested in dogma than results. Most of the major initiatives we’ve seen from the White House have been more dogmatic than pragmatic: The Neo-Con’s War in Iraq was pure dogma, the Tax Cuts were an exercise in Supply Side theory, even the refusal to address issues such as conservation and energy efficiency reveal a slavish devotion to laissez faire market theory — with no exceptions made, except for pork barrel corporate welfare for contributors. (hmmm, maybe its not so laissez faire after all).
As Harwood correctly observes, independent and swing voters are finding it difficult to reconcile the warm and fuzzy campaign rhetoric with the realities of this White House’s policies. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds a majority “disapproves of his approach to critical foreign and domestic issues alike and saying his policies on Iraq, health care and jobs and the economy need “major adjustments” or outright reversal. Among the one in five voters who say they are undecided or leaning one way but open to persuasion, those majorities are overwhelming.”
The poll finds the incumbent slightly ahead — 47%-to-45% — nationally. But as we noted on Monday (this is key) — Kerry now leads in 14 swing states (up from 13 early August) — despite the damge done by the now thoroughly debunked SBVFT. In 2000, six of these states were won by Bush. As of today, polls place Arkanas, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Tennessee in the challenger’s camp.
The question is what sort of agenda Mr. Bush can offer to attract new supporters without alienating his conservative base. While his job performance so far has earned him 79% approval among conservatives, 55% of persuadable voters disapprove. Persuadable voters, 19% of the electorate, include those who say they are still undecided or not yet fixed in their presidential choice.
Overall, 50% of the electorate says the nation has gotten on the wrong track, while just 36% say it’s heading in the right direction. Among independents, 60% say the nation is headed in the wrong direction. By 50% to 46%, voters say Mr. Bush doesn’t deserve to be re-elected to a second term.
Its not all bad for Bush: The Journal notes a number of positives for the incumbent: He still gets strong ratings on terror, and by a 2-to-1 margin, voters give him high ratings for being “easygoing and likable.”
But its the issues that keep haunting Karl Rove — is it any surprise he’d rather see the media (and his candidate) talking about 527s, rather than Iraq, Health Care, and the Economy?
The president’s personal assets have been eroded by Democratic attacks and controversies over such issues as the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. While Mr. Bush continues to receive positive marks for his “strong leadership qualities,” his 50% approval on that dimension matches the weakest of his presidency. Just 45% of voters rate him highly for “being honest and straightforward,” while 39% give him low marks.
More problematic are the ratings Mr. Bush receives on the issues, aside from the broader antiterror war, that have dominated campaign debate thus far. On Iraq, a 51% majority says Mr. Bush needs to change his approach, and a 49% plurality says removing Saddam Hussein from power wasn’t worth the human and financial costs. By 51% to 43%, voters say it is appropriate to begin considering troop reductions in Baghdad, which Mr. Kerry recently suggested could begin in the first six months of his presidency.
On the domestic front, the most critical issue is the economy, for which Mr. Hart describes the president’s ratings as “dreadful.” Some 52% of voters overall disapprove of the president’s handling of the economy, and the proportion who say the economy has gotten better in the past year has fallen to 29%. Despite a revival of economic growth overall, voters say by a 2-to-1 margin that circumstances for middle- and working-class families aren’t improving.
Those negative assessments span Mr. Bush’s handling of a series of issues. By 55% to 38%, voters say the president’s tax cuts mostly have benefited the wealthy rather than all Americans. As oil prices hit record levels, six in 10 voters criticize his approach to gas prices. Some 58% of voters want major changes in the president’s approach to health care, while 55% say the same thing about his policies on jobs.
Too bad the report came out in that left wing commie rag, the Wall Street Journal. Now if it was in the New York Post, well than maybe we could have trusted its objectivity . . .
Bush Holds Slight Edge, but Faces Hurdles With Undecided Voters
By John Harwood
The Wall Street Journal, August 27, 2004; Page A1