Are You Hurt Or Are You Injured?
For the past few days, I've been trying to surmise the extent of the damage to the Kerry campaign wrought by the SBVT shenanigans. I'm sure most of you have seen the latest LA Times poll showing an uptick in support for Bush. However, an August 23rd Zogby poll found Kerry leading in most of the key battleground states, while an article in today's Wall Street Journal highlights the Bush campaign's underlying weaknesses on a number of fronts, even after this latest Atwater/Rove special:
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.
These results indicate that, although the SBVT imbroglio has undoubtedly damaged Kerry, it has not translated into an increase in support for Bush outside of his already-loyal base. Of course, now that the Bushistas have softened up the Kerry campaign, it is essential that Cahill and Shrum be prepared for any future attacks coming down the pike after the Convention. The SBVT affair doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the Boston brain trust, but I would love to be proven wrong, y'know?
UPDATE: Here's another take on the latest poll numbers.