Dick Morris cites to a recent Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll which shows Dubya in seriously deep doo-doo. Bush’s job approval is at an all-time low of 45%. More importantly, as Morris points out, the public now ranks security concerns fourth in terms of priority, and Dubya is rated way lower than the Democrat on all non-national security issues. In other words, Jane Public trusts the Donks to spend the money on health care, education, etc. Voters are ambivalent about tax cuts. Morris suggests that Bush must talk up the dangers of terrorism, etc. But, that will backfire. Bush has to proclaim that his policies have succeeded, and by doing so, he makes himself less relevant and less desirable as a candidate.
A victorious war is instantly forgotten by the voting public. The American voter is a tough boss. She only wants to know, “what have you done for me lately.” Past good service counts for nothing. The good news is that Jane Voter has concluded that Iraq was a good idea and that we won. She has also concluded that the Democrats, whatever they say, will carry on following much the same course that Bush has followed. So, for Republicans, the bad news is she now considers the war on terrorism, Iraq, etc. to be essentially resolved as political issues. And with the war effectively over, or at least under control, peacetime issues will dominate. This leaves only bread and butter issues, and the voting public appears to be in a mood where it wants new middle-class entitlements that only the Democrats will provide — like subsidized day care so Mom can work all day. Ambivalence about tax cuts is no surprise. American middle class voters do not like anything which they perceive as benefiting the rich or the poor at their expense. George Stigler had an article about this years ago entitled ” Director’s Law of Public Income Redistribution”, (Journal of Law & Economics, 1970, vol. 13, issue 1, pp. 1-10; not available online) named after U of C economist Aaron Director. Director and Stigler demonstrated that American government policy consistently benefited the middle class at the expense of the rich and the poor. This is contrary to most political rhetoric, but there it is. This is also consistent with Walter Russell Mead’s finding that Jacksonian values have come to permeate the American suburban middle class — and that Jacksonians are “opposed to federal taxes but obstinately fond of federal programs seen as primarily helping the middle class (Social Security and Medicare, mortgage interest subsidies).” And suburban voters trust the Democrats on these issues more than the Republicans. Also, Jacksonians do not much like foreigners, and the immigration and outsourcing issues are going to hurt Bush. I even think calling the invasion of Iraq “Operation Iraqi Liberation” was a mistake. Social work for foreigners does not get you much popularity with the American voting public.
Dubya seems to be tracking his father, despite his attempts not to. Bush, Sr. won a war and thought that would matter to people months later. It didn’t. It was ancient history by election day ’92. So while it is a long way to election day ’04, I am not yet willing to bet that Dubya won’t get a one way ticket back to Crawford on the same basis — thanks for the war, there’s the door. I’ll only bet on this: Whatever happens, it is going to be close.