Polls Show Bush's Initial Assault Upon Kerry Failing
Want to know why Bush is going so negative using the Willie Horton gang so early in the campaign? Because despite the conventional wisdom that Kerry’s lead in the polls this early is irrelevant because Bush is just now starting to fight, the truth is that Bush’s numbers are still down after his first counterattacks.
Two polls released today, taken through the weekend after Bush’s first set of 9/11 commercials and counterattacks show Kerry maintaining healthy leads in one-on-ones against Bush. Kerry maintains an eight-point lead over Bush in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll (52%-44%), a lead that drops to 50%-44% with Nader in the race (picking up 2%).
The ABC News/Washington Post poll also out today taken through the weekend shows Kerry with the same nine-point lead over Bush that he had back in mid-February (53%-44%). But when Nader is added to the mix, the margin drops to 48%-44% with Nader grabbing 3%.
In both polls, there are virtually no undecideds; folks have made up their mind on these two already this early in the campaign, and that’s bad news for Bush. Most importantly, in both polls, Bush registers his lowest approval ratings and highest disapproval ratings of his presidency. In the CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, Kerry’s lead is larger among likely voters because for the first time Democrats are more likely to vote than the electorate at large. Usually of course it is the GOP that is more likely to vote, but not this time. Also, note this from the same poll:
Of those polled, 45% said they are certain to vote for Kerry and 38% for Bush. That means the campaign is focused on the 17% of voters who say they are undecided or could change their minds.
Another sign of trouble for Bush: Men, usually a Republican strength, split 47% for Kerry, 46% for Bush. Kerry has his party's typical lead with women, 53%-43%.
The poll was taken Friday through Sunday. On Thursday, Bush launched TV ads in 17 states promoting his leadership in "tough times."
Even before they ran, the president was put on the defensive by some families of people who died in the World Trade Center, a firefighters union that endorsed Kerry and Democrats who said Bush was politicizing a national tragedy by using images of the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. More than half of those surveyed, 54%, said Bush's use of the images was inappropriate.
And from the ABC News/Post poll:
A majority of Americans -- 57 percent -- say they want their next president to steer the country away from the course set by Bush, according to the survey. Bush's standing hit new lows in crucial areas such as the economy (39 percent support him), Iraq (46 percent) and the budget deficit (30 percent).
Bush no longer is viewed as someone who can bring the country together. Slightly less than half the public says the president has done more to unite the country, while just as many say he has done more to divide Americans. Fifty-four percent of Americans view Kerry favorably, while 26 percent take an unfavorable view (respondents were evenly divided on Bush, 47 to 46). Nearly half -- 49 percent -- of those interviewed said they trusted Kerry to handle the biggest issues facing the country, while 44 percent preferred Bush. In mid-January, the two were tied.
More Americans also view Kerry as being honest and trustworthy, more understanding of the problems of "people like you" and more tolerant than the president. On the key issue of leadership, a strength GOP strategists are featuring in ads supporting the president, the two candidates are virtually tied, with 63 percent saying Bush is a strong leader and 61 saying the same of Kerry. The two are also closely matched on ideology: A third see Bush as too conservative, and a third see Kerry as too liberal.
Democratic attacks on Bush as a president who favors the interests of large corporations over working people clearly have had an effect. Two in three now say Bush cares more about protecting the interests of large business corporations, up from 58 percent in December.
Kerry's advantage on many key issues was large. The Democrat currently has double-digit advantages over the president as the person best able to handle the economy (Kerry leads Bush by 12 percentage points), Social Security (16 points), education (12 points), the budget deficit (15 points) and health care (20 points). On only one major issue is Bush preferred to Kerry: the war on terrorism, where the president has a 21-point advantage.
And while these numbers look good for Kerry, he is saying the right things (saving Medicare and Social Security) to the right audiences (seniors) in the right state (Florida).
Bush will have to spend every dime of his stash to destroy Kerry just to get his numbers back up and Kerry's down. That is why I say again:
Senator Kerry, remind voters that Bush has brought back the Willie Horton and Whitewater crowd to smear you and divert voters' attention from his own failings. Say it often, and say it loud. In doing so, you can discredit Bush's own negative campaign no matter how much money he spends.