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Parsing the Polls: The Bush Burden?

As often happens at the start of a new month, almost every major media organization has released a national poll over the past week. And the surveys agree: President George W. Bush is not a very popular politician 8 months ahead of the midterm elections.

With the primary season kicking off this week, the prevailing political environment will begin to matter more and more. Bush's renewed struggles (after a brief -- and slight -- poll bump earlier this year) create the real possibility that he will be a drag on Republican hopes to maintaining majorities in the House and Senate in 2006.

While it's important to note that much can change before November, there does not appear to be any major outside event (barring, perhaps, the capture of Osama Bin Laden) that could provide an immediate boost to Bush's numbers over the next eight months.

This week's Parsing the Polls looks at Bush's current numbers and compares them to past midterm election cycles. Check out the surveys mentioned (Washington Post-ABC News, CBS News, CNN/USA Today/Gallup, and RT Strategies/Cook Political Report) for yourself for further reading.

To the numbers...

President Bush's average approval rating in the four surveys was 38 percent; his average disapproval score was 58 percent. The president's lowest approval rating (34 percent) was in the CBS poll, while his highest (41 percent) was in The Post-ABC survey. The CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey had Bush's disapproval at the highest level (60 percent); the RT Strategies/Cook Political Report poll had it at its lowest (54 percent).

Even more troubling for Republicans could be the rising number of respondents who said they "strongly" disapprove of how the president is leading the country. In The Post-ABC poll, 24 percent of the sample "strongly" approved of the job Bush is doing compared to 44 percent who strongly disapproved. That result was mimicked in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey (20 percent strongly approve/44 strongly disapprove)and the RT Strategies/Cook Political Report poll (23 percent strong approve/41 percent strongly disapprove).

That disparity in energy levels should be worrisome for congressional Republicans. Midterm elections are traditionally much lower turnout affairs than presidential election years, meaning that only the most dedicated -- or fired-up -- voters tend to turn out in large numbers. If Democratic partisans are energized to send a message to Bush this fall while Republican loyalists feel less enthused, then the GOP could lose close congressional contests -- especially in districts and states that tend to favor Democrats.

Thanks to crack Post political researcher Zachary Goldfarb, The Fix can compare where Bush currently stands to where presidents in the last three midterm elections found themselves at this same point in the cycle. The numbers for 2002, 1998 and 1994 are an aggregate of independent polls out at the time.

President          Election Cycle          Approval
Bush                2006                     38%
Bush                2002                     82
Clinton             1998                     67
Clinton             1994                     50


What conclusions can be drawn from this historical comparison? None, definitively.

But a look at the three past midterm election years shows that the president's number remained generally static in the 8 months or so before Election Day. While Bush had dropped from the stratosphere of 80-plus job approval ratings by election day 2002, he was still at 67 percent approval in The Post-ABC survey and 63 percent approval in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. Four years earlier, Clinton went into election day at 65 percent approval in the CBS and Post-ABC polls and 66 percent approval in the CNN/USA Today/ Gallup survey. In 1994, Clinton's job approval stood at 49 percent in a late October survey before the election.

History suggests, therefore, that President Bush won't see his approval numbers rise radically between now and November. Exceptions always occur in history. But there's clear evidence that Republicans in Congress are already worrying about the president's potential drag on GOP midterm election performance. Just yesterday, for example, House Republicans ignored White House wishes and agreed to allow a vote on the controversial ports deal.

Your thoughts are welcome in the comments area below. Also, I'll be online at 11 a.m. ET this morning for the daily Post Politics Hour Web chat. Submit a question or comment here.

By Chris Cillizza  |  March 8, 2006; 7:30 AM ET
Categories:  Governors , House , Parsing the Polls , Senate  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Texas Primary: DeLay Wins Primary, Bell to Challenge Gov. Perry
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Comments

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Posted by: insurance auto | June 8, 2006 9:27 AM | Report abuse

My main emotions relating to the presidential candidates from BOTH parties over the past two elections and terms are frustration and disgust. I did not vote for the incumbent, but against the weaker alternative. To talk about the "supporters" as though it were they who are the ones muddled is an affront. And I resent those who fashion their defense of
what strikes me as incompetence around an assertion that those who, like me, feel that we need wiser, more intelligent leadership, are supporting our nation's enemies. I believe I have a right to expect vision and wisdom at the level of the presidency, together with an ability to
articulate something other than simplistic
epithets, repeated ad nauseum. Endless rationalizations of how and why prior
predictions and strategies that did not pan out, but can be endlessly retreaded, does not provide solutions and does not build support -- no matter how clever the propaganda aimed at squelching those of us who are more impacted by results than empty rhetoric.

Posted by: G. L. | May 11, 2006 4:12 PM | Report abuse

This Republican Southern Leadership Conference is good for laughs. McCain endorsing Bush? Bush and Karl Rove stuck it to him in 2000, now he bends over to take it again! Rudy Giuliani, who Chris Matthews relentlessy flogs at every opportunity? We'd have to bring back Bernie Kerik to sneak his current girl friend into the WHite House just like the Gracie Mansion days! Bill Frist? Between the Terri Schiavo idiocy and his HCA stock sale you might have a tough time selling him even in his home state. Rick Santorum with connections to Abramoff and the Schiavo thing, dubious financials, do I need to go on?
Another thing, MSNBC seems to have gotten worse lately with Matthews giggling with Hillary's dragon lady has been opponent and other repub flaks constantly on his show, statements like "We're going to the RSLC, interview all the candidates and find out who will be the next U.S. President" I thought we had a two party system here. The other commentators like Tucker Carlson, Scarborough are so biased they are not worth listening to. Jim from Mass.

Posted by: Jim from Mass. | March 11, 2006 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Jim Israel,

I completely disagree with you. I believe that if we had another major terrorist attack that would be the political end of the Republican Party in the here and now. Here's why: For five years now the Republicans have (with McCarthyesque efficiency) impugned the character of Liberals as terrorist collaborators and traitors to this country and that ONLY Republicans will keep America safe. Well, if there is another terrorist attack, that argument will appear to be as hollow as it really always has been except that this time there would be no one for Americans to blame except themselves for voting such liars and halfwits into power so many times. Every single argument that has been made about Iraq being the new breeding ground for terrorism and the alienation of the entire middle east would ring true and come home to roost right on Bush's and the Republicans doorstep. No, another terrorist attack would do the Republican Party no favors.

Posted by: Robert In West Hollywood | March 8, 2006 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Ohio Guy,

The Republicans do have credibility issues; however, after reading most of these nonsensical blogs I realize the democrats are clueless as the republicans are shameless. I think the democrats maybe drinking arsenic laden Kool-Aid since apparently they don't know how to read labels.

Posted by: Iowa | March 8, 2006 6:47 PM | Report abuse

think the Republicans believe in anything that they use to manipulate the publick...


why would geo w. bush be holding hands with an Arab emirate if he's homophobic?


why would he nominate h. meirs if he actually believed what he was spinning?


he's pro illegal alien because they're cheaper, not because he supports poor people...

he wants to give them opportunity yes,


an opportunity to be paid for your job at 1/2 what he's paying you.

Posted by: I guess I think you're confused if you | March 8, 2006 5:02 PM | Report abuse

To 'The Republican'

You are dreaming if you think the democrats only pick up three governorships in november. You are on drugs if you think the republicans will nominate pro-choice, pro gay rights, pro gun control Guliani. How does that Kool-Aid taste?

Posted by: Ohio guy | March 8, 2006 4:48 PM | Report abuse

let me put it this way....

the 9/11 Commission said that the presidents response to the Commissions suggestions "bordered on the criminal."

there are 12 MILLION illegal aliens in the country right now, according to an article on the front of the Washington Post this morning....and somehow in a world teeming with

terrorists in your fear mongering presidents opinion...

none of them have been terrorists, dark haired, dark skinned illegal aliens streaming over the borders from Mexico and we don't get one friggin arabic terroist...


what am I saying?


the presidents not worried, about terrorists because he manufacured them...

what would give him credibility?


a terrorist attack.


I think he manufactured the original "terrorist" attack....all of the pilots were trained in the United States,
there's a guy on line in the Early Warning Blog that says that there's a school in Georgia that they trained at that is CIA related....

from what I know it seems more reasonable, than that if we had suffered a terrorist attack that

nothing has been done to make our country safer....if the president was afraid


why would he say immediately after 9/11 that what the publick needed to do to respond effectively to protect themselves from terrorism was to

buy duct tape and plastic?


again MILLIONS of illegal aliens, no terrorists...


UAE wants to buy some ports, the presidents okay with it, he knows where the terrorists are....


just outside of McLean, VA and Langley MD., waiting for him to call in the next strike...to Goss.


Posted by: you're not the brightest guy but | March 8, 2006 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Why would a terroist attack, after 5.5 years of listening to the prez say everything he is doing is geared to stop another terrorist attack here on our soil, be seen as a positive for the GOP. to me, if everything was geared to stop another attck ends up not stopping one, you have a failed presidency and a negative backlash come november.

Posted by: terrorist event good for prez?? | March 8, 2006 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Retirement Fund Tapped to Avoid National Debt Limit

By Stephen Barr
Wednesday, March 8, 2006; Page D04

The Treasury Department has started drawing from the civil service pension fund to avoid hitting the $8.2 trillion national debt limit. The move to tap the pension fund follows last month's decision to suspend investments in a retirement savings plan held by government employees.

In a letter to Congress this week, Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said he would rely on the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund to avoid bumping up against the statutory debt limit. He said the Treasury is suspending investments and will redeem a portion of the money credited to the fund.

isn't Snow sort of like


Bush's "we need," this guy on the UAE PORTS deal?

and also a member of the Carlyle Group?

Posted by: regarding bankrupting the United States... | March 8, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Kas:
"What explains Tom Delay's win in the primary after being indicted for a felony?"

Stupidity and opportunism.

Stupidity on behalf of Republican voters who, against all evidence to the contrary, assume that Delay is innocent. Opportunism on behalf of Democratic voters who would rather have their guy running against a felon than a fresh face.

Posted by: J. Crozier | March 8, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse

span you already belong to the sound bite people...

piss off.

Posted by: then I don't need to worry about your opinion if that's your attention | March 8, 2006 3:37 PM | Report abuse

I'm with GA. Diebold is far from dead - in fact it's gaining ground. Rove is capable of ANYTHING. Read "Bush's Brain" and find out that Rove is a power-mad, amoral, unscrupulous individual. NOTHING is out of bounds in his book. He has sworn to maintain Repub dominance in all three branches of government - basically eradicating the Democratic party forever.

Posted by: felicity smith | March 8, 2006 3:36 PM | Report abuse

to the lack of roundedness.


but does delay say, "yes, I'm a demagogue"

no.

he says you're a gay lovin, gawd hatin, baby killer...

the media is run by corporate sponsors and no one has

the cajones to stand up against them..


I mean delay, shouldn't be allowed to hold office if he can't uphold his oath...


but find me one congressman that has the stuff to ask that he be disbarred...


then things will change.

arrest or charge cheyney for influence peddling.

call Karl Rove a mailorder salesman and prove it....

any one of those things is more likely to stop the ball rolling forward than some elaborate strategy....


if you have an enemy, you don't talk, you walk forward, kick them in the side of the knee and then finish them...


these people are enemies to the United States and need to be recognized as such...

bankruptcy is on the horizon in a big way....


how did the Soviet Union fall....all it's money in defense while the infrastructure went to shit.....


and what is happening now?

Posted by: everyone pays attention... | March 8, 2006 3:36 PM | Report abuse

For the record, if the comment is longer than a couple of short paragraphs then I don't read it.

Posted by: jenniferm | March 8, 2006 3:05 PM | Report abuse

No-one pays attention to the incredible pro-republican/pro-business stance of American media. This single factor is destroying American democrary by cutting off the rounded debate that used to be part of American politics. (Traditionally, we had many voices in local media, speaking to all sides of the issues; now, we have central control of multiple media outlets, and get only a single side of issues - along with that side's statement of he other side's views.)

The media's failure to report this stands as a failure to live up to the role that gave it special protection in our constitution and contriubutes to the average person's disbelief in reports. In the future, it may be recognized as the start of the failure of American democratic government.

This bias remains an insurmountable burden for non-corporate/ non-conservatives. It is one of the primary factors in the fall of America.

Posted by: Curmudgen | March 8, 2006 2:45 PM | Report abuse

law to not tell children how to conceive...


and how long sperm lives, and what contraception consists of, and what STD's are...


I had two girls, I gave them and their boyfriends a scientific dissertation of the whole thing including that I knew of a girl that got pregnant w/o intercourse because she got pregnant when sperm came into contact with her exterior surfaces whilst messing around...


the girls didn't get pregnant and ended up marrying who they wanted to, and not for purely physical reasons because they were informed consumers....

married late twenties.

to a certain extent abortion is a form of birth control, if you're not willing to inform the children of the conseqences and that

they

are the ones responsible for not getting pregnant.

Posted by: they need to make it against the | March 8, 2006 2:24 PM | Report abuse

as it has, three times...


what is really at issue is that there is some kind of satanistic-hitleresque mindset that is trying to take hold in the United States....

I say, call it what it is, don't fear it, put some soap on it and wash it out....


the stain will come out.


just take the necessary action.


arrest a few people in the whitehouse, today....


CIA, FBI, NSA people:

arrest the president, vice dick,

and his JCS, for treason,
you know it's true.

Posted by: the abortion issue is already saved if Roe vs Wade stands... | March 8, 2006 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Particularly telling is his performance in five traditionally Republican strongholds. See the overall results here as well as results across these states.

http://www.elon.edu/e-web/elonpoll/elon_poll_march06_results.doc

Posted by: Elon Univ Poll | March 8, 2006 2:17 PM | Report abuse

alienating and poisoning the american people towards each other and the world...is what the current congress and administration do best...


by poisoning the minds of the people with lies....confusing issues by creating delusion.


take McCarthyism:


we didn't hate communism.

the elite did.


what would communism do to them?


depose them...


not that communism works, pure anything doesn't work to my knowledge,

but after the McCarthyism the spector of communism became part of our culture like fearing the church after it became a tool of Roman domination...and the spainish inquisition, thus the fear of speaking out against gawd-users....like delay, falwell and the twister blesser brother from hell...robertson...voodoun christian.


anyone from Britain can tell you what is wrong with our system....

two parties is too few....


open forums, like parliment, that's more like a brawl, but an honest one, where things are discussed rather than orchestrated...


another thing is "socialism" is a bugaboo word in this country, like liberal...but we have it and we need to look at what it really means...it means taking care of those that need it...


but


everyone needs to understand that capitalism,
untempered,

is pure and simple, survival of the fittest....


and without proper laws to actually destroy them, the fittest sometimes turn out to be the most _corrupt_....


I say make some laws that allow us to destroy people financially if they corrupt the system to their advantage.....wipe out the familiy estates....


and I AM SERIOUS, this is not some thoughtless get even kinda thing, I mean that if they risk going over the line to using the political system for personal gain that they are destroyed....


what other thing can you do to discourage it honestly...


look at it this way, in the old days there were certain families, people that you didn't start trouble with unless you were going to destroy them _permanently_


you don't want to wound predators, you want to eliminate them...


looking at the bush familiy tree...this generation, you have a group of selfish, manipulative, we don't need to pay for our mistakes...predators...you really don't want to give them the chance to remain in power, as they are teaching people _to manipulate_as_a_way_of_doing_business in sort of an "we dont' need to worry about being seen way, because these people are too stupid to catch on."


Tom Delay is like the relentless, demagogue who will see everyone in your family in hell if you cross him...so send him there first....we don't need people like that with power...mean drunk George Wallace seems very much set in the same mold.

demagogue also demagog ( ) n.

A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and

_prejudices_

of the populace....as a way of doing business..


appeal to reason is somewhat different, we haven't seen much of that except in Jimmy Stewart's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington reruns....


Tom Delay links hatred into his addressing of those that oppose him like the racial hatred user, George Wallace...there is a visceral resemblance....and physical resemblance....stylistically there's little difference.

put the southern drawl into it:


let me tell yuh, "the negrah"

let me tell yuh, "the liberal"

kinda thing


or the homo sexu-ahs
or the baby kill-uhs
or the gun control-uhs
or the war hate-tuhs


the mythologizing of the opposing peoples into mother raping monsters...that want you to have anal sex with them...


I mean that's good for the people to keep them at each oth-uths throats while you rape their country isn't it?


hello people...

alienating and poisoning the american people towards each other and the world...is what the current congress and administration do best...


Posted by: response to veehaann.... | March 8, 2006 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Can't really understand all the hype around the polls. While we write abortion is being wheeled into the arena and the lions are being starved.

It's all in the timing, that's what we say. We're looking to see if OBL is captured, or if there is another domestic attack. But wait! Why would the GOP count on that when they've been planning the abortion showdown for years (forever, it seems). They know Roe v Wade will not be overturned, and they honestly don't want it to be (then their only hope would be for the OBL or attack strategy). As long as they can keep dragging out the big "A" issue why worry? They know that all the wars, crimes, deceit and corruption associated with the GOP will not hold a candle to the tsunami that will erupt over abortion. Again, and again, and again.

If I (oh, boy, you can see it coming now, can't you?) If I were in politics, I would love to stand up and say: I don't care about abortion anymore. It's moot for me. Let the courts fight it out. What I do care about is stopping our sons and daughters from dying in Iraq and other nations where we don't belong. I do care about is ridding the government of the corruption that money and power brings (yes, that does mean sweeping out the business lobbyists - sorry, but you've got all the money and power). I do care about teaching my children, and all of our children, that a government of the people is an ideal worth standing up for, worth defending, and worth aspiring to. I want my children, who are bi-racial, and all of our global neighbors, to know that our strength and courage is matched only by our passions and humility.

OK, I've ranted a bit, but I hope I have not bored you.

Stay well, Kb

Posted by: Kb | March 8, 2006 2:11 PM | Report abuse

with your praise I shall silence you by blessing your contenance wit h wisdome...


prepare to think!

Posted by: you offend me | March 8, 2006 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I am addressing the traitor Veehaann, by the way.

Posted by: D. Cheney | March 8, 2006 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Silence, worm!

I may have grown richer than Croesus on government contracts.

But the American people know that you are the true elitist, because you can count and spell.

Posted by: D. Cheney | March 8, 2006 2:07 PM | Report abuse

sucker punch the American public by:


delivering Osama, get there first


if you think he could fund a covert operation to have a terrorist attack to steal the elections


uncover it.


if he commits fraud to control the electorate it's a criminal offense, have him arrested....


if he's already done that, prove it and have him arrested...it just takes three people...


Posted by: well if you think he's going to | March 8, 2006 2:06 PM | Report abuse

you don't reward dishonesty by ignoring it:

I'd have the President arrested for perpatration of fraud when it came to "war" when in fact we're in an occupation to control scrarce resources that his family is invested in....


WMD-not

Iraqi connection -not

how about Arabic connection to the Bush family? proven for over 23 years.


they're not invested in having the United States become less OIL DEPENDENT....are they?

your leaders?

will sell anything that isn't nailed down...


without giving the citizens of the United States honest and fair representation...if they can't steal the towels, they don't want to check in....they're part of the visit right, they're paid for....corruption is just part of the congressional life...


comeon...give me a break...


a high school student could tell you what happens if you don't work with the ecology of a system.....everything breaks...


that's what is happening to us as a group, the citizens of the united states of america.


there is such a thing as a human ecology, one that keeps all things working towards a sustainable future....


look at the bushe trying to appear "in touch" with the future by "supporting alternative fuels"

too little, not at all...photo op.


you want the effin thing to work, raise gas prices to $3.50 a gallon and bank the excess to pay for infrastructure changes giving freight companies some time and some leeway to get better rates....legislate change that we as a nation can adapt to....THAT IS A NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE,


not some orchestrated Oz show called find the terrorists but don't look at what I'm doing...

trains, making city life pleasurable, workers that telecommute, blah blah blah, it could happen....they effin telecommute from friggin India every day....they trust them, why not you? ask Capitol ONE....formerly of Fredericksburg VA, now from Bangalore India....3,000 jobs.


but you make changes to make sure that the future is a good one for the citizens of the United States of America, and the world ultimately....not just for you and your oil invested family...


why should g. w. bush worry about rising oil prices?


he's in the business, why would he interrupt that business to help out his country, that would get in the way of his, his families, and his family friends profits.


WAR ISN'T NECESSARY AS AN ECONOMIC INTERVENTION WHEN THERE ARE ALTERNATIVES....


UNLESS YOU _WANT_ IT THAT WAY,

PLANNED OVER THE COURSE OF A LIFETIME OF Covert Activity....

your leaders?

will sell anything that isn't nailed down...


Posted by: the point is little man, even children know this.... | March 8, 2006 2:02 PM | Report abuse

I just wanted to strongly second the most recent posts by GA and scootmandubious. I am definitely worried about Republican shenanigans especially since if they did mess with the results, it would be very difficult to prove. Also, I hope scootmandubious gets to be an advisor with the democratic party as I think he is one hundred percent correct about what should be the major talking points for the Democrats: taking back Congress to provide a check on the White House's power and arrogance.

Posted by: Jason | March 8, 2006 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Some years ago, Republicans made “liberal” a dirty word and began using it to smear Democrats. Democrats never responded effectively; instead, recently, they’ve taken to shunning “liberal” in favor of “progressive”, a feeble defense, unlikely to blunt the Republican smear campaign. To fight back Democrats need to respond in kind.

Fortunately, the party in power has provided plenty of ammunition:
- It attempted to gut social security.
- It created an absurdly complex prescription dug program designed by, and mainly for the benefit of, the big drug and insurance companies.
- It proposes these cuts: Medicare funding by $36 billion; the education budget by 38%; $600 million from science & technology; $300 million from environmental protection, and $276 million from the Center for Disease Control, while a virulent bird flu pandemic is in the offing.
- It has amassed a mountain of national debt that will impoverish our children and grandchildren.
- All of these while transferring more and more of the nation's means and resources from those who need to those who have.

Surely. it must be obvious, to anyone who’s been paying attention, that the Republican Party has become the “SCREW THE PEOPLE PARTY”. That's how we should refer to it, always!

Posted by: veehaann | March 8, 2006 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Given that we know that Bush and Cheney are planning to bomb, with an air-bombing campaign, Iran in July or August, do you think the public will buy into yet another shell game?

All I know is people in the more conservative parts of my state, especially the elderly, are getting very angry at the Feds, and that means the GOP.

Posted by: Will in Seattle | March 8, 2006 1:29 PM | Report abuse

GA: "What happens when polls prior to the election and exit interviews both show a Democratic landslide, and then official tallies show just enough Republicans eaking out close victories?
I do not want that Constitutional crisis, but I fear that it will happen."

I also fear GA's nightmare scenario.

For that matter, gross disparities between polls and results can occur even in all-paper elections.

That's what happened in the recent Iraqi election and the previous constitutional referendum...

...elections which international monitors were barred from observing.

Posted by: Carot | March 8, 2006 1:25 PM | Report abuse

2 things:

1) When on earth is somebody going to make a stink about hackable touchpad voting machines that leave no paper trail? Even the Post ran an editorial on the Maryland stalemate. When will this issue be taken seriously???

2) The main issue the Dems should raise is the importance of having their party control at least one branch of government for the sole sake of having some oversight of the president.

The arrogance of the GOP in denying hearings on NSA spying, while having some type of partisan agreement with the president is the type of issue that needs to be brought home hard at election time.

You cannot have 1-party government without an abuse of power.

Posted by: scootmandubious | March 8, 2006 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Intrepid Liberal is wrong.

One other thing can spare the Republicans from a political tidal wave -- rigged, upreproducable ballots.

When is this country going to wake up and demand that each vote produces a paper receipt? Electronic mechanisms are always susceptible to manipulation. Various reports say that has happened already. What happens when polls prior to the election and exit interviews both show a Democratic landslide, and then official tallies show just enough Republicans eaking out close victories?

I do not want that Constitutional crisis, but I fear that it will happen.

Posted by: GA | March 8, 2006 12:33 PM | Report abuse

One thing I have been wondering lately, and The Republican's comments cemented this in my mind, is that the Democrats are playing a very good game of lowering expectations (especially Howard Dean who I guess learned his leason about expectations).
Minus the MSM's push to say the Democrats will take back both houses, nobody in the democratic machine is setting any hard claims for pick-ups.
The Republicans are masters of this technique. They always down play there expectations then and when they out preform them they claim a massive victory and consequently the elected authority to force their agenda down our throats.
I think in this light it is very wise of the Dems to not make bold claims about how many seats they will pick up.

Posted by: Andy R | March 8, 2006 12:18 PM | Report abuse

My comments are directed at the Ickes vs DNC article. Obviously, the upper circle Dems aren't aware of what is really important to the people. The big issue with Dem voters here is apathy. Why even vote? The majority of the elected Dems either are too scared of Bush to set him straight or are on the corporate-take themselves. What inspiration is available to the Democratatic voter? None. It's the same old thing. And we don't need a $10 million dollar database system, to harass us to spend more money. We donated more money than ever to the DNC and Kerry to ensure that Bush would not return. If we could not defeat Bush/GOP in 2004, what will make the difference in 2008? More Money is not the answer. We need new blood, with fresh ideas. We need candidates that care for the people and doing the job right, rather than corporate-incentives and contributions. I'm not voting for anyone who hob-knobs at the same country club as Bush, even if they call themselves Democrats. We need to kick the corporate politicians out of the government and give it back to the people. Or we need to start a new party that can!

Posted by: Janet from Texas | March 8, 2006 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Giuliani did OK in New York, but he would never survive a national election. Partisan Democrats won't support him and churh-going Republicans (currently driving the GOP) will abandon him in droves when they find out he's been married 3 times, favors abortion rights, gay rights, and gun control.

Giuliani's first marriage was annulled after 14 years when, he says, he discovered he was married to his second cousin. His second wife accused him of adultery.

Posted by: Alan | March 8, 2006 12:10 PM | Report abuse

The Republican: liked your analysis although the end of it "Giuliani sweeps 40 states" requires that the GOP unlearns the lessons that California Tom reveals: religiosity wins. I'm betting you don't like the unthinking acceptance of any candidate as God's mouthpiece (I'm sure God doesn't). Giuliani doesn't fit into that mold at all. The evangelical voter/sheep will stay home in droves if he's the nominee and the GOP knows that. Your party continues to suffer from intellectual decline and America suffers for it.

BTW my bet is the that failing any major positive news for Bush the Democrats take the House. Everything else you say I agree with.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | March 8, 2006 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Yesterday, I heard a "red state religious" woman say she trusted George Bush to do the right thing because he prayed and accepted Jesus as his Saviour.
I've long been sad that the media did not ask George Bush which of Jesus's reported sayings he listens to, when W said "Jesus" was his favorite philosopher.
Maybe it's the secret sayings of Jesus, just discovered by Karl Rove.

Posted by: California Tom | March 8, 2006 11:54 AM | Report abuse

The big question is whether or not Democrats can capitalize on the president’s low numbers.

In a recent NYT article, Democratic heavyweights like John Kerry and Howard Dean acknowledged they haven’t built the momentum for a huge shift in the electorate. Reading that, I was baffled.

The president is on the ropes, the GOP is flooded with ethics violations and the Democrats are floundering as usual. Not exactly the 1994 scene when cagey Newt flared brightly.

I am a Republican, but Bush, I concede, is less than impressive.

I don’t worry about sharing these feelings with the bloggers and readers here—for I doubt the Democratic Party’s ability to net historic gains.

Perhaps the next election cycle will prove me wrong, but, again, I doubt it.

Politics is game of appearance versus reality. For decades, the Democrats have sacrificed their branding edge. In essence, they've allowed themselves to be branded—as vacillating, unpatriotic (was it really politically expedient to be anti a flag-burning amendment?) or weak on defense and morality.

Never mind the fact that both parties suffer from moral gaffes.

That sounds cynical but its' not. Even the most idealistic soul should realize how this battle is waged -- especially is he or she wants to affect change.

But the GOP has defined the game, so that no Democratic candidate can run for national office as a liberal.

Now, as a Republican and moderate conservative, philosophically I am inclined to support Republican candidates—although I prefer McCain, Giuliani and Hagel to the current Bush.

Prediction: The Democrats make modest gains in the House but fail to tip the boat. They gain two senate seats. And, possibly, three governorships—(The governors are the cagiest operators in their party, but fear not fellow Republicans, the Democrats are only modestly aware of this—and their liberal core is blithely, sumptuously unaware; they're content to flop around and flail in anger like a good Goldwater Republican in the early sixties.)

Then Giuliani sweeps 40 states over Hillary and Mark Warner in 08’ and competency returns to the Oval Office in a big way.

Posted by: The Republican | March 8, 2006 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Chris - what you missed in your analysis is that the biggest impact next November may be manifesting right now. Compared to last election cycle, Democrats are in a MUCH stronger recruitment and fundraising environment early in the cycle. Most races may not be WON this early, but they can certainly be LOST because of poor candidates or weak fundraising. The guys who tried to recruit candidates in 2003/2004 had a VERY hard time, because we had just invaded Iraq and Bush was at his highest approval ratings (in the range of 80%). Frankly, who WOULD want to challenge Republican incumbents in that environment? Well, this cycle should be different because of Bush's low approval ratins -- if the Democratic leadership can't recruit and equip candidates to run now, then it won't matter what happens next fall with Bush's numbers. You've got to have enough surfers to ride in the tide. So, keep an eye on GOP retirements and late entries by Dem challengers.

Posted by: JJB | March 8, 2006 11:21 AM | Report abuse

What explains Tom Delay's win in the primary after being indicted for a felony?

Posted by: KAS | March 8, 2006 11:06 AM | Report abuse

I agree with EJF that the CBS poll was weighted too heavily with Democrats, and that I'd like to see a registered voters' poll, as opposed to merely adults. However, I don't think it's that unusual for Dems to have a 5-8% advantage in party identification in the polls right now. Considering the unpopularity of Bush at the moment, when some wavering Republicans are polled, they may now be self-identifying themselves as independents. And some former independents may now (temporarily, at least) be self-identifying as Democrats.

Posted by: PBS | March 8, 2006 10:57 AM | Report abuse

"What conclusions can be drawn from this historical comparison? None, definitively."

In context I agree; however, looking at the 82% approval Bush had in 2002 I can definitely draw the following conclusion: Bush screwed the pooch. He squandered enormous good will and public resolve. When I think about the proactive, forward-thinking initiatives could have been introduced with that kind of political capital and the depressing, hunched, scrabbling agenda that exists today the contrast is breathtaking.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | March 8, 2006 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Bush doesn't have a lot of capital in him, yet he is a fund raising draw. Since Cheney, Addington, Rove are the ones who actually run the country, the GOP will put their Charlie McCarthy out on the campaign trail for the next six months to raise money and campaign. Plus, some extra slime from the 527 groups will help.

Regardless of poll numbers, do not underestimate the GOP machine's mission of maintaining the majority.

Posted by: jenniferm | March 8, 2006 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I tend to agree with John's analysis. Bush's hard core of support is somewhere in the middle to low 30s. I base this on several past statistical surveys on the overall make up of the American electorate--generally a third is hard core conservative, a quarter is hard core liberal, and the rest make up what is derisively referred to as the "mushy middle".

I have concerns about that mushy middle because they are so easily swayed by events, are less passionate and less aware of the issues, and generally tend to wake up when an election nears. They are notoriously influenced by television advertising and will buy int to some of the most base conspiratorial accusations put out by both extremes.

Posted by: Jaxas | March 8, 2006 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Anyone taking odds on the likelihood of an election manufactured terrorist event in the States in early October? I'm thinking we'll be blaming Iran for that one? 3 to 1? 4 to 1?

Posted by: Calboxer | March 8, 2006 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Democrats will still have difficulty realizing a victory that is virtually handed to them unless they realize illegal immigration and the ports deal are a single issue: national security.

These days national security has a strong economic component, but apparently NOT the flavor portrayed by the Bush administration as measured in the minds of voters.

Posted by: Matt | March 8, 2006 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Not saying that Bush is popular, but lets look at the partisan breakdown of the respondents in those polls you mention:

CBS Poll: 37% Dems/23% GOP
ABC News/WashPost Poll: 50% Dems/42%GOP
Cook Poll: 46% Dems/41% GOP

Keep in mind that in the last election the voters were 37% Democrat and 37% Republican

Plus, all of the polls are only of "Adults", not even "registerd voters" (and about 30% of them don't vote)

And can you explain why the WP did a poll when 3 of the 4 nights were "weekends" when the Post's own poll director acknowledged previously that weekend polls usually show lower numbers for the President?

Specifically, he said the following:

Gallup reported Bush's overall job approval rating this morning at 41 percent based on a poll conducted Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We reported in this morning's paper Bush's job rating at 47 percent based on our poll conducted Thursday through Sunday. . . .When I, just for fun, dropped our Thursday interviews and just looked at the results of our Friday through Sunday subsample, I found that Bush's approval rating was 44 percent. That's still different but far less startling than Gallup's 41. In our poll, Bush had good nights on Thursday and Sunday; his worst nights were Friday and Saturday.

See here for link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2005/12/19/DI2005121900972.html

Posted by: EJF | March 8, 2006 9:33 AM | Report abuse

You assert, "no major event" between now and November with the exception of the capture of Bin Laden would likely enhance President Bush's approval ratings.
A terrorist attack in this country would inevitably lead to a "rally 'round the flag" sentiment that most certainly would do wonders for Mr. Bush's performance numbers. Sobering, but true.

Posted by: Jim Israel | March 8, 2006 9:22 AM | Report abuse

I don't think that Osama is going to be quite as cooperative as the Iranian who were promised future ''favors'' if they played ball with the incoming Reagan administration. It's actually a good example of how dirty the Republicans are willing to play. Will the democrats get back congress in November. Hard to say. The mood of the country is very dark, it is definitely experiencing Bush and GOP fatigue and would probably like to turn over the congress to the democrats. Against that you have the formidable Rove electoral machine. If the democrats can can bring out their voters they have a fair chance. Also I don't subscribe to the view that Bush's numbers can't go somewhat lower. His core is probably the low thirties and based on chat with various Republican friends there is a lot of disenchantnent around so a couple of more disasters and it could cause more slippage. O

Posted by: John | March 8, 2006 8:20 AM | Report abuse

The Republicans have the following conundrum: when your party holds the White House, you're identified with that President no matter what. Hence, the imperative for separation. But distancing only reinforces the perception that a problem exists with the President you're identified with. If you don't separate then you're not seen as independent of the President your party is identfied with. Democrats have experienced this conundrum with various failed nominees in previous election cycles for Presidential campaigns. The only thing that can spare the Republicans from a political tidal wave is gerry mandering - and perhaps not even that.

http://www.intrepidliberaljournal.blogspot.com

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal | March 8, 2006 8:12 AM | Report abuse

Osama Bin Laden will probably be captured just before the '08 elections axactly like Iran released the hostages days after our elections.

Posted by: Jim | March 8, 2006 7:54 AM | Report abuse

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