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December 09, 2005

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Whether or not Bush is up in the approval ratings by the margin of error or a couple of additional points, the true test will be whether Democrats can convert the high levels of disapproval for Bush (assuming no recovery between now and November) into congressional and gubernatorial advances.

Yes, Republicans have some structural vulnerabilities: more Senate and gubernatorial incumbents facing the voters at a time when incumbents may be punished, for instance.

For me, however, the question is whether Democrats in enough contestable districts will be able to use the unease over Iraq as reflected in this and other polls to nudge out Republican incumbents given that the Democratic Party itself is so riven that it's go some of its most visible members practically shooting at each other over what U.S. policy in Iraq should be.

I've been arguing to much resistance that the Democrats would be better off to have a unified alternative plan than not. Even though I would like this plan to be one of rapid, phased deployment, I could live with something else if there WAS something else. I suspect, the longer it takes to come up with something else - if we ever do - the less the Democrats' potential advantage in this arena will be.

Would a Democratic plan that includes redeployment hurt red-state Dems or red-district Dems in blue states? Could be. But I think that all depends on how those Dems present their message. For those Dems, the point is already moot, however, because the GOP is already using Murtha and Dean as the posterboys for the Democrats as yellowbellies campaign we can expect. Better to have a solid plan that answers that bullshit than leave campaigning Democrats with no concrete alternative to Bush's same-old, same-old offer fence-straddling voters when they ask: But what would the Democrats do differently?

On the one hand, some of the argument against your suggestion, MB, is timing, not substance. OTOH if dispirited Rs don't vote in midterm elections, that's a major factor.

Agreed on timing. The trouble is that once a theme - like "white-flag Democrats" - gets entrenched in people's minds, it's hard to uproot it.

Well, trying to tie Murtha with Dean is a stretch. And according to the polls, the American public is smarter than the pundits - in fact, a lot smarter.

Yeah, but the Democrats have to prove they are as smart as the American people. Don't I wish...

janinsanfran, that's a hurdle no politician has jumped over in a long time.

Charlie Cook, same topic:

Which brings us to the final point: Even though a majority of Americans think the war was a mistake, no consensus exists in the public, among elected officials, or in the foreign-policy establishment about what we should do next. Most foreign-policy experts argue that an immediate pullout, or a specific timetable for withdrawal, would be a mistake. Eliminating those options makes it difficult to offer an alternative to Bush's determination to stay the course. While a measured withdrawal without a publicly announced schedule obviously is one alternative, calling for gradually allowing Iraqi forces to assume greater responsibility doesn't exactly present a stark contrast with Bush's position.


Thus, Democrats in Congress find themselves in the awkward spot of criticizing what has already happened yet being very divided over the nation's future course. Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, nervously stand with the president. They want to remain supportive, but they worry about the personal political cost. The overall result is that this anti-war movement has the sympathy of a growing portion of Middle America but has yet to turn itself into a political force as potent as the anti-Vietnam War movement was 35 years ago.

... but has yet to turn itself into a political force as potent as the anti-Vietnam War movement was 35 years ago.

If we are to believe liberal hawks like Peter Beinart (and those who agree with him), it's good there is no large, vocal, activist antiwar movement this time around. But if we antiwarriors are not supposed to march in the streets, et cetera, because we'll all be accused of being naive or malicious anti-soldier hippies, thus hurting "the cause" by means of negative framing, and if elected Demcorats won't take on the task of devising an alternative Iraq policy, what exactly is there to do but sit on our hands and watch events unfold?

Bush has lost the trust of the American people; the GOP supports Bush

Bubbles don't un-pop. Bush will never see the sunny side of 50% again. Congresscritters will run from him in anything like marginal seats. His appearences down the '06 stretch will be restricted to the GOP fever swamps.

that's why Cook says Rs are nervous. THEY know.

Interesting from froomkin today:

I wrote in my Tuesday column that Bush's upcoming appearance before the Council on Foreign Relations would not include the traditional question and answer session.

Peter Baker wrote in The Washington Post that only a few hundred members of the council showed up Wednesday morning and that "empty chairs were removed from the back of the ballroom before Bush arrived."

Judd Legum writes in the liberal Think Progress blog that the council sent out a desperate plea late Tuesday by e-mail, asking people who were planning on coming to bring a friend.

Legum concludes: "Apparently, most people aren't that excited about being used as a presidential prop. This may explain why Bush has preferred giving his speeches in front of military audiences, who are required to attend."

Thanks for posting this, Dem. Also, thanks to Ruy Teixeira for making the obvious point about this Times poll: it's a dead-cat bounce, at best. Being excited about a 40% approval is like thrilling to gas prices being 10 cents lower -- it's only relatively better, not actually GOOD.

To apply The Note's stupid reasoning to a long-ago situation: after a year of the hostages being held in Iran, Americans were fed up and angry about the situation, but uncertain what course would do better (everyone knew a military storming of the embassy could lead to death for all involved, which was an equally poor outcome). Yet Republicans made just such bellicose noises. By The Note's logic, the public, doubtful about such action, would have rejected the GOP and re-elected Carter despite its alienation from him. Mmm...didn't turn out that way.

A lousy situation in Iraq hurts Republicans...and, in the zero-sum game of electoral politics, what hurts Republicans helps Democrats. Anyone telling you otherwise is throwing dust in your eyes.

There is a wonderful review in the New Yorker by Louis Menand of a new book "Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?" that basically shows that experts are no better than ordinary, reasonably well-informed people at predicting what will happen. In some ways they are worse. The more confident the "expert," the more likely he is to be wrong. But since no one holds them to account, it doesn't seem to matter. The more complex the prediction, the more likely it is to be wrong, but the more likely people will make that prediction.

The best predictors are "foxes" who know a lot about a little (rather than a wehole lot about a few things) and who don't see things in terms of grand theories or single all-explanatory factors, and tend to see self-reinforcing trends that then overextend themselves and then drift back to the mean. Especially the blowhard pundits who are more entertainers than serious thinkers are prone to be wrong, more wrong than monkeys with dartboards.

So take all this with a grain of salt. A substantial part (majority) of the people seem to know Iraq is shot and making things worse. The troops are coming home because there are no real backups, and it is only a matter of when and how fast. Bush will fight it until he doesn't. But he won't get his credibility back. And what good does lockstep message discipline do if the message is wrong and no longer convincing?

I loved that book review. I have a soft spot for Menand because he's done a lot to popularize philosophical pragmatism over the last few years. But positive biases aside it was a really good discussion about the way we can easily get trapped in a particular way of thinking if we're not on the lookout for new information and holding ourselves accountable. And pundits being human, they're just as susceptible.

The flip side of this is that if it seems like there's no one who can make good predictions about how various decisions will play out, the idea of using our human intellect to actively change the world and find solutions to our problems can seem a lot scarier. Unintended consequences loom so much larger. I do think there are some strategies described in the review that might help, but it's something worth keeping in mind.

AP-Ipsos at 42% here.

Bush improved his job approval rating from 37 percent in November to 42 percent now, though his standing with the public remains relatively low. Fifty-seven percent still disapprove, down from 61.

other second term presidents were in the 60's. get real.

Maybe it's just Xmas spirit. People are being nicer to the President because they Santa (and, more important, Black Peter) is watching.

It's all noise. Don't expect media types to understand MOE. They didn't get it in 2004 and they don't want to get it now.

Let's bring back a classic. See q. 11.

For those who like less than subtle images, how about a Cartoon of Bush (or Cheney) saying all their old lie while shoveling manure?

After all, the American poblic has been fed a steady diet of it for 5 years.

To me, this would be real effective.

On an intellectual level I understand Bush's bounce in the approval rating pols is relatively insignificant.

On an emotional level, however, I'm stunned that ANYONE could possibly support the moron after all the horrid lies he's told, and the utter imbecility he's displayed. Not to mention the blood on his and his cabal's hands from New Orleans and Iraq. This is truly a national nightmare. Too bizarre for words.

On an intellectual level I understand Bush's bounce in the approval rating pols is relatively insignificant.

On an emotional level, however, I'm stunned that ANYONE could possibly support the moron after all the horrid lies he's told, and the utter imbecility he's displayed. Not to mention the blood on his and his cabal's hands from New Orleans and Iraq. This is truly a national nightmare. Too bizarre for words.

MB

It seems to me the winning strategy to Iraq would be in coming up with a larger strategy--not just withdrawal, but a dramatic shifting of priorities to get us away from oil. And not just withdrawal from Iraq, but a (real) reconsideration of our policies and goals in the ME.

We failed in Iraq partly because we didn't wage a total war. Perhaps the only way to recover from teh debacle is waging a total peace.

If Bush got a few points from lower gasoline prices then he has only about a month or two before he gets obliterated in the polls.

Dead-cat bounce is exactly the word for Bush's uptick.

In market terms, Bush was slightly "oversold" a month ago - after the nonstop pummelling of Katrina, Miers, and the 2000 flag-draped coffins benchmark, a few percent even of people who desperately want to support Bush were discouraged to the point of saying they didn't. That sliver has drifted back, but flirting with apostasy has probably still weakened their faith.

I reluctantly think that Meteor Blades is right - the Dems need a unified plan, or something that looks like one, simply in order to shut the pundits up.

It is also a basic problem of cognitive dissonance in the electorate. Americans know that Iraq is a loser, but they deeply, deeply hate to lose. "Framing" can be overhyped, but this is one case where it is absolutely crucial. Getting out has to be framed as "walking away in disgust," not "giving up."

-- Rick

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