April 22, 2004

Bush’s Ironic Bounce

President Bush is up in the polls.

WASHINGTON — As worries about the Iraq war and terrorism have pushed ahead of the economy among the public's priorities, President Bush has edged ahead of Democratic challenger John Kerry, national polls suggest.
Bush is ahead of Kerry by five points in the latest CNN poll, and he’s up by six points in the latest Gallup.

Richard Cohen in the Washington Post tries to figure out how this is possible after a month of bad news.

In the past month or so, everything has gone wrong for George W. Bush. He has been criticized at hearings of the Sept. 11 commission for being lackadaisical about terrorism. Richard Clarke accused him of being weirdly obsessed with Iraq. More than 100 Americans have been killed there in the past 30 days, and Bush was so inarticulate in his recent news conference that you could say he violated the standards of his own "No Child Left Behind" policy. Still, if this keeps up, he'll win reelection in a landslide.
I am one who would just barely answer “Bush” if a pollster called my house. For me it’s real simple.

I don’t like Bush. Didn’t vote for him. Used to hate him. Slowly grew to be neutral. (There, I just channeled his father.)

Kerry just doesn’t have it together. He’s a cipher. I have no idea how he would perform on foreign policy. And neither does anyone else. He might do a fine job. Really, he might. But “Take a chance with John Kerry” isn’t a compelling slogan unless you're a Bush hater.

Since Al Gore received slightly more votes nationwide than Bush did, a small but significant percentage of people who didn’t vote for Bush last time around would vote for him today. Some of those people are converts. Others probably prefer the devil they know to the one that they don’t.

If I had to grade Bush I’d give him a C. The only reason I give him that high a grade is because of who he’s compared with. He gets a Gentleman’s C, and only because I’m grading on a curve. (On foreign policy, though, I would give him a B. He earned that from me.)

John Kerry does have my sympathy. He could give a “Sister Souljah” speech and distance himself from the more feral anti-war activists. Some moderates and centrists would think that was fine. The trouble is he would also give Ralph Nader a bounce at his own expense. Bad news in Iraq doesn't help him, and he probably expected it would. He’s trapped in his own box.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at April 22, 2004 10:22 PM
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