The Economy Starts to Take Its Toll on Bush Reelect Numbers
After seeing a recent upward trend in consumer confidence level off yesterday, today it is reported that durable goods orders fell by 0.3 percent in May, a larger-than-expected figure. This occurred after the expected post-Iraq economic lift that the Bush Administration was expecting, and during the time Wall Street had already factored in some degree of an anticipated Bush tax cut package. With the Fed poised to cut interest rates again to get the economy going, and gas/natural gas prices rising again, what exactly would be the impetus for the economic improvement that Bush recently assured us was underway?
Should Bush and Rove be nervous? You betcha. Why?
On top of these less than encouraging economic developments, polls are starting to reflect voters’ lack of enthusiasm for giving Bush a second term, especially when economic performance is taken into account, and even in the face of high Bush personal approval ratings.
President Bush basks in high approval ratings, but when potential voters are pressed about giving him a second term, the numbers drop, a reflection of worries about the struggling economy and a general wait-and-see attitude so far ahead of the election.
"With job approval, you're asking how they feel right now," said Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup poll. Bush's job approval ratings won't accurately reflect his potential until March or April next year, Newport said.
The current poll also found that 37 percent of Democrats approve of Bush's job performance, but only a third of those Democrats who approve would vote to re-elect him. Among independents, the re-elect numbers weren't as high as the approval ratings.
"What this means is that Democrats and independents who lean Democratic still want to consider other choices," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. "Bush will still have to convince swing voters that he's the right person for the job once a Democratic candidate emerges.
"It also says the public wants an election campaign and wants to see what the Democratic candidate will say," Kohut said.
That sentence about Bush’s re-elect numbers not being as high among independents as his approval ratings speaks volumes about the opening the Democrats face in the upcoming campaign: if they can nominate a candidate who turns out the base to vote and attracts independents especially on economic issues, we have a very competitive race.
Bush's re-elect numbers are even lower in the Ipsos-Cook Political Report tracking poll, which showed a drop for the president from April to June, a time when the nation's focus shifted from the U.S.-led war against Iraq to the economy, Medicare and tax cuts.
In June, 42 percent of those polled said they would definitely vote to re-elect Bush, and 31 percent said they would definitely vote for someone else. Bush had a 19-point advantage over an unnamed opponent in the April survey by the Ipsos-Cook Political Report.
Thomas Riehle, president of Ipsos Public Affairs, said the reason was simple: It's the economy.
For Democrats, struggling with a field of nine candidates and facing a Bush fund-raising machine that has raked in millions, the numbers provide some hope — and a challenge. Veteran pollster Warren Mitofsky said who the Democrats pick will influence the support for Bush's re-election.
"The real question for the Democrats is will they choose a candidate who's as good as people are looking for?" Mitofsky said.
It should also be noted that support for Democrats in the generic 2004 ballot question from Ipsos now exceeds Republicans.
This tracks with an assessment I made several weeks ago wherein I speculated that Bush’s personal approval ratings weren’t as important as other indicators such as the direction of the country ratings or the more pointed re-elect indicators. It won’t matter in the end if the voters like Bush, contrary to some of the pabulum we are fed by the Beltway types. What will matter, especially it appears from the critical block of independent voters, will be how they feel Bush will do for the country and the economy in a second term.
I continue to think that national security will be a major issue as well. The Democrats must offer candidates who can gain the trust of voters in this area while offering their own prescriptions for our security, such as improved domestic security at ports and our borders, federal funding for 100,000 more local law enforcement and emergency response personnel, and a total commitment to working with other countries to surgically remove terrorist threats using our Special Operations forces .
But there will be more revelations about Bush failures pre-9/11, his ongoing lack of commitment to deal with our security needs now, more reports about lies and deceptions leading up to the invasion, more leaks and reports about internal turf battles and CYA attempts in responding to the inquiries, and continued reports on the deteriorating situation in Iraq and Afghanistan As a result, even the poll numbers showing approval of Bush’s handling of foreign affairs will slide. A Democrat should be able to use Bush’s own record of abdication of responsibility against him to neuter the national security club that Rove plans to use.
So with the economy hanging around Bush's neck and his re-elect numbers sliding, it will then force Rove to order the Iranian invasion.