Tuesday :: Mar 1, 2005

Gallup Says Bush Losing Support On Social Security - GOP Gives Him Only Weeks To Turn It Around

by Steve

At a time when Joe Lieberman is thinking of handing Bush a life line on Social Security, the GOP’s own strategists are getting a sense of desperation about passing the privatization plan and what it will do to their chances of holding seats next year. From today’s Washington Post, we get this:

White House officials are telling Republican lawmakers and allies on K Street that they must begin to overcome opposition to President Bush's proposal for changing Social Security within six weeks, GOP strategists said yesterday.
The GOP strategists stressed that the six-week goal is not a hard deadline for a political breakthrough, but they said the public's tepid view of Social Security change cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely. The directive raises the possibility that Republicans will have to reconsider whether legislation can be passed this year, as Bush wants.
Party officials said that with Republican lawmakers getting at best a mixed response to the idea in meetings with constituents last week over the Presidents' Day break, the White House believes it is important for lawmakers to hold hearings and conduct high-profile bipartisan meetings that will help build momentum for the plan that has proved so elusive thus far. The stepped-up activities will fall far short of introduction of a detailed plan or bill, since Bush has remained vague about his plan and neither House nor Senate leaders are anywhere near agreeing on a direction.

Remember that last line and keep in mind Krugman’s caution from this morning in Yuval's post below. Bush has no intention of laying out a detailed plan to privatize Social Security because he has seen how many bullets have been fired his way so far by a united Democratic opposition. The GOP will wait until they have a Democrat or two on board for the concept of private accounts and then craft the final bill to their liking in conference committee out of the glare of public view.

Even Senator Charles Grassley confirms that Bush has only about 2 to 3 weeks to steer public opinion his way before GOP senators reconsider whether they want to tackle Social Security at all. The poison pill for the public, from Grassley’s perspective? Private accounts.

And it’s not just Grassley saying this: the Los Angeles Times notes this morning that GOP representatives and senators returned from recess after getting an earful on Social Security, and what they heard troubled them. The story notes that GOP members think that the problem is nothing more than the public not understanding the benefits of private accounts, and that more work by Bush will succeed in selling it. They are wrong. Even the usual chutzpah from Grover Norquist at the end of the story, wherein he threatens Senators Ben and Bill Nelson with defeat next year if they don’t play ball with Bush is hot air. The Nelson’s constituents, one from a red state and one from a state with a large senior population, are not enamored of private accounts, and more bluster from Norquist and lies from Bush aren’t going to overcome the facts that the public knows private accounts require large amounts of debt without dealing with the system’s solvency problems, thereby requiring large benefit cuts.

And who, of all people is telling us that Bush is actually losing support on Social Security, the more he talks about it? Our friends at Gallup.

Only one in three Americans approve of President Bush's handling of Social Security, his lowest rating on the issue since he took office.
A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll conducted Friday-Sunday found that 35% approved of Bush's Social Security record, 56% disapproved and 9% had no opinion. That was down from three weeks ago, when 43% approved. In March 2001, just after he took office, 49% approved.
The poll showed that Democrats have made headway in their opposition to Bush. In early January, Americans divided evenly when asked whether Social Security needs major changes in the next year or two. Now 59% say it doesn't need to be changed right away.

This poll also showed why the White House and RNC need USA Next to destroy the AARP as quickly as possible before the GOP can get through to the public with their lies about privatization: the AARP is trusted more on the issue than Bush is.

The poll showed higher public approval for AARP, the 35-million-member retiree organization that is leading the opposition to Bush's plan, than for the president. Bush's favorable rating was 56%, compared with 75% for AARP. And 47% of Americans said they trust the Democrats more to deal with the issue of Social Security, a 10-point advantage over Republicans.

These bad numbers for Bush and worries from his party that he needs to turn this around in weeks not months comes even before Democratic senators fan out to their states back home in the coming weeks to educate their constituents on what privatization really means and the true state of Social Security.

So with polls showing that Bush is losing support for privatization as time goes by, and with the same poll showing the AARP with higher approval ratings than Bush, and with his own party setting time limits for Bush to turn this around, and with Grover Norquist sounding desperate enough to issue threats, why would Joe Lieberman make it easy for Bush to salvage a victory from the jaws of defeat?

Steve :: 8:00 AM :: Comments (24) :: Digg It!