Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Tuesday | January 14, 2003

Cooking Up a Storm?


Charlie Cook takes a look at the trend in Shrub's poll numbers in his weekly e-letter, "Off to the Races," just out today, and also sees signs of vulnerability -- although being mindful of the need to protect his professional reputation as well as his kneecaps, he doesn't go too far in trashing Boss Rove's boy.

I couldn't find a link to the newsletter, but if you want to subscribe, go here. It's usually pretty good and its free.

Cook starts by making the sensible point that historically, there has been no discernable connection between a president's polling numbers this far out from the next election, and the results of said election. And he gives some examples, both positive and negative:

Reagan: 41% Gallup rating at the end of 1982; GOP had just been moidered in off-year elections, almost lost the Senate. Which of course, is why Wally Mondale went on to serve two terms in the White House. . .

Bush I: Well, we all know this story. And we can't wait to see the sequel, right? 60%+ ratings in December 1990 -- before the Desert Storm Hail Mary play. Scraped 90% approval after big blowout victory over Saddam U. Which is why Bill Clinton served out the rest of his term in Little Rock.

And speaking of the Big Dog:

Clinton: 40-42% in Gallupdom December 1994, with the Gingrich lynch mob hard on his heels. Which is why you see all those old photos of Gingrich and Dole drinking the bubbly on election night '96.

So the point is made: It's too soon to say whether the S.S. Shrub is just taking on a little bilge water, or has slammed into the iceberg.

BUT, Cook goes on to look at Bush's reelect numbers (using the Ipsos-Reid numbers, which aren't quite as bad as Gallup's) and doesn't like what he sees. Might not be a bad idea to get the covers off those lifeboats -- just to be on the safe side:

In the first quarter of last year, the "definitely" vote to re-elect number was 54 percent; then it dropped to 50 percent in the second quarter, to 42 percent in the third quarter, then eased back up two points to 44 percent in the fourth quarter.

In the most recent survey, 42 percent said they would definitely vote to re-elect Bush, while 25 percent said they would consider someone else and 30 percent said they would definitely vote for someone else.

While these numbers are not bad, having 55 percent say that they are at least open to alternatives suggests the election might not be as much of a done a deal as some seem to think.

Now that "some" still includes me. It's not so much that I think the election is a "done deal" -- elections never are this far out, as Cook demonstrates.

But at this point, I'd say the Dems are like a team with a 7-8 record shooting for a wild card berth. It could happen, but only if everything breaks their way. I mean they've gotta win their last game, and Green Bay has to beat Minnesota, but not by too many points, and the Giants have to lose to Atlanta, and so on and so on.

The Dems have not, as they say in the NFL, been mathematically eliminated. But the odds still aren't in their favor.

That said, I know how quickly things can change, because I saw it happen to the last Bush White House in the winter of 1991-92. They didn't know what hit them.

So go ahead and root for the home team. But I wouldn't be lining up to buy Super Bowl tickets just yet.

Posted January 14, 2003 12:34 PM | Comments (64)


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