Wednesday :: May 25, 2005

How Strong Of A Hand Do Bush And The GOP Really Have In Filibuster Debate?

by Steve

(Thanks to for the graphic)

In all the chatter over the last several days about the filibuster/nuclear option battle, a couple of polls came out that showed some interesting results about Bush and GOP support in general, and specifically on the issue of judicial nominations. In short, neither Bush nor the GOP congress are in a strong position with the American electorate to force a nuclear option and do away with the filibuster.

First, the most recent CNN/USAT/Gallup poll taken over last weekend was released Monday afternoon, and there were several noteworthy items in that poll. Gallup reported that Bush’s job approval rating, which they had pegged at an outlying 50% the week before, had fallen back to 46% approve, but with a 50% disapproval mark, Bush’s highest disapproval since the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib revelations last year and the second highest of his presidency. The most striking finding in this poll however was that in the generic ballot question for 2006, poll respondents gave Democrats their largest margin over Republicans, 11 points, since 1994. If the midterms were held now, 47% wanted a Democratic congress, and only 36% wanted a GOP congress. Before getting too excited about this poll however, take into account that according to Gallup a representative sample of our population contains 36% Democrats and only 29% Republicans, a huge swing from just last week, when Gallup’s last poll showed a tie between Democrats and Republicans in the sample. Again, Gallup like many other pollsters doesn’t weight their samples for party identification, but does weight their samples to reflect the demographic and other census-driven factors in our population, so according to Gallup at this point in time, a 7-point edge for the Democrats in a sample is representative of the country as a whole. (Irony alert!) It’s also worth noting that the RNC doesn’t like the Gallup poll because there aren’t enough Republicans in it. And it’s also worth noting that Bush’s “personal qualities and leadership” question fell to its lowest mark of 52% ever.

A second poll, also taken over the weekend for ABC News and the Washington Post just on the filibuster issue showed a slight edge in favor of doing way with the filibuster altogether. But before anyone gets too invested in these results, it should be noted that this poll’s sample for some reason had a ten-point edge for the GOP. One could ask how two different pollsters could sample the population at exactly the same point in time and come up with representative samples that are so far apart from each other in terms of party identification. But we’ve been down that track before, haven’t we? As far as this particular poll is concerned, 52% of this GOP-heavy poll admitted that while they wanted by a small margin to eliminate the filibuster altogether, they weren’t following the issue too closely. They were probably getting their talking points from Fox, Rush, and O’Reilly.

A CBS News poll also done over the weekend showed that maintaining the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees had the support of nearly two-thirds of those polled, even though 66% of those polled weren’t following the debate very closely or at all. And 79% of those polled said that Republicans and Democrats should agree on judicial selections, and only 14% thought the GOP should have its way on judges. The same poll showed that 70% thought the Senate should take as much time as it needs to review and decide upon judges. This poll contained very low approval ratings for Congress, with 68% saying that Congress does not share their priorities.

Reid needs to know that he seems to have the support of the American people in holding the GOP's feet to the fire to uphold the deal they cut earlier in the week. And in the event that Lindsey Graham or Bill Frist want to rewrite that deal to preclude any filibusters, especially for Supreme Court nominees, Reid and the Senate Democratic leadership need to take that CBS Poll and plaster the Beltway press corps with it to establish the meme that the public expects a bipartisan, deliberate approach towards judicial nominations, and not the "my way or the highway" approach from Bush and the American Taliban.

And as I said earlier in the week, notwithstanding Frist's or Graham's clearly evident "please stop beating me up Mr. Dobson" comments, if any of the GOP senators who were a party to the deal try and undo it now, Reid should establish the meme that the GOP Congress is having its leash jerked by the American Taliban instead of paying attention to the real concerns of everyday Americans. In fact, since the GOP has so much to teach Democrats on the subject of framing issues, perhaps it is time for the Democrats to frame the House and Senate GOP as nothing more than lapdogs on a leash from evangelical extremists.

Steve :: 8:12 AM :: Comments (8) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!