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December 15, 2005

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peter baker (along with VandeHai, one of the three 'regular' WH correspondents blamed by the ombudsman for wanting distance from Froomkin), writes on Bush's irreconcilible differences:

As President Bush wrapped up a series of speeches on the war yesterday, he once again gave a clear answer to when U.S. troops would come home from Iraq: "We will not leave until victory has been achieved."

And he also gave this clear answer to when U.S. troops would come home from Iraq: "As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down."

What he did not do was reconcile those two ideas. Will U.S. soldiers withdraw from Iraq only after the insurgency has been vanquished? Or will they withdraw when Iraqi security forces become adequately trained to take over the battle themselves? Or somewhere in between?

Good points in your comments.One other thought: has anyone asked what exactly "victory" means? By not responding to that question, Bush is able to label most scenarios (like Murtha's ideas) as "defeat."

from First Read:

Our polling partner The Wall Street Journal focuses on how our latest survey shows a "political insurgency among elderly American voters" that is "worrisome for Republicans aiming to keep control of the House and Senate in the fall." Disparities between older and younger voters on Congress' job approval and the generic congressional ballot test have "big implications for the 2006 campaign for two reasons. One is that older voters, having given Mr. Bush slightly greater support than younger voters in his narrow 2004 re-election victory, have now become the most critical of his job performance... The second is that older voters play an outsize role in midterm contests, because they traditionally turn out at higher rates while many young voters tune out campaigns not featuring a presidential contest."

Also from First Read, the Wall Street Journal/NBC Poll attributed some of the so-called "bounce" to people's view that the economy is improving, mostly attributable to falling gasoline prices. What people use to measure the health of the economy is their own personal economic health, particularly how much pressure they feel from rising prices. And what counts?

"Asked which measures they use to evaluate the strength of the economy, 41% of those polled say they judge it by the amount they spend on food, gas, and other necessities, and 33% say the cost of education and health care. When asked if the economy is improving 'right now' or not, a majority of 53% say it isn't. But among the 42% who say it is, 24% say it's improving `for all economic levels,' not just for the highest economic level (18%). 'The old populist notions don't apply so much here,' says NBC pollster Peter Hart (D).

"Of course, the risk for Bush in the public's linking his handling of the economy so closely to energy costs is that costs could rise. Indeed, home heating bills are expected to. The other risk factor is that those polled list the costs of education and health care as their second most-used measure of how the economy is doing, per the survey, and the Administration has done very little to address the costs of health care, apart from pushing tort reform. On another question, when asked which issues should be the top priority for the federal government to address, health care ranked second at 33%, behind the Iraq war but ahead of job creation and economic growth. The cost and supply of energy, on the other hand, was rated as a top priority by 16% of those polled, down five points since November. 'Health care costs are a huge deal,' says NBC/Journal pollster Bill McInturff (R). 'It's pretty clear what people are telling you about what they think the filters are for how they view the economy.'"

Health care is indeed a big deal and one of the factors that drives Seniors against Bush. But it is a big deal for a great many people, and should be the wedge to splinter the GOP coalition, IMO. I eagerly await the Dems' reported "more opportunity from greater security" theme next year.

It was of course predictable that the press would ride with "Bush Improving!" -- I'm sure they're under enormous pressure to soften the tone of their coverage -- but what these recent polls (Zogby, Pew, NBC) show is just how dead-cat that bounce was. Putting aside home-team-favoring Rasmussen, Gallup is the only poll to get him as high as 43%, and even that was quickly recalibrated to 42. With, now, more than one poll keeping him in the 30s, the range goes 37-42, which isn't exactly spectacular improvement over 35-39. You'd think, with the number of pieces of better news they've had (chiefly improved gas prices, but also the removal of New Orleans and Fitzgerald indictemsnt from the headlines), the bump would have been stronger. Then again, we might recall what several people pointed out here back in August/September: that, though Katrina was a massive media event, it was never a massive polling event. Bush's numbers declined only a tick after that; the real damage had been done prior, by Iraq.

Another thing really impressing me is the continued excellent showing for Dems in the generic Congressional ballot. Earlier in the year, Dems were often in the lead, but by the smaller margins we saw disappear in '02. Now it seems you can hardly find a poll without a double-digit advantage (and no shift since October there, either -- which should hasten GOP marginal-district defections in the coming months).

And, as Dem has pointed out here and elsewhere, there's so much potential Bush downside ahead -- more from Fitzgerald, oil prices still in flux, Iraq an ongoing/festering wound...and what if that housing bubble finally bursts?

thanks for stopping by, demtom... and in the end, Abramoff (I think) will trump everything but Iraq. So much so, that Bush is now trying to incoculate R's with the 'they both do it' speech.

That'll work short term, because plain folks hate all politicians. But it will fail to work when the indictments come... they will be predominantly R.

Of course you're right: I forgot Abramoff, which is starting to look like the mother-lode. Maybe people are already following it, and that helps explain the Congressional numbers?

Or, maybe it's the godawful prescription drug thing. There are so many things to be outraged about, it's hard to keep track.

demtom,

Please send me an email; yahoo, my user ID.

"When asked if the economy is improving 'right now' or not, a majority of 53% say it isn't. But among the 42% who say it is, 24% say it's improving `for all economic levels,' not just for the highest economic level (18%). 'The old populist notions don't apply so much here,' says NBC pollster Peter Hart (D).

I wonder if they correlated those views with economic status. If the people who believe that all levels are doing well are predominantly at the upper levels, then "old populist notions" might very well apply.

Frankly, I'll be a lot more interested in people's views of the economy after another month of heating bills.

I'm as big a skeptic and frequent detractor from the MSM as everyone else here. But I do listen to the tone and tenor of TV commentary with the opinion that most Americans get their news in small bites from mainstream sources (I don't count Fox in this, btw). For several weeks it was nothing but doom-and-gloom "lame duck" commentary. The lead-in lines were all to the effect of "Can President Busy accomplish any of his agenda?" You get the drift. The lead-in set the tone for the piece they were covering. Lately, though, it's been more like "President Bush has given four speeches on Iraq and they seem to be working with the public." Totally different tone. Granted, "working" is a subjective term - is "working" a 1% improvement? 5%? Is it holding ground? Yet the language sets the tone that Bush is doing something that's "working".

Am I the ultimate cynic in that I believe it doesn't matter what the polls say but, rather, how they are posited? I'm profoundly disturbed at what I perceive to be a media turnaround in tone.

I'm as big a skeptic and frequent detractor from the MSM as everyone else here. But I do listen to the tone and tenor of TV commentary with the opinion that most Americans get their news in small bites from mainstream sources (I don't count Fox in this, btw). For several weeks it was nothing but doom-and-gloom "lame duck" commentary. The lead-in lines were all to the effect of "Can President Bush accomplish any of his agenda?" You get the drift. The lead-in set the tone for the piece they were covering. Lately, though, it's been more like "President Bush has given four speeches on Iraq and they seem to be working with the public." Totally different tone. Granted, "working" is a subjective term - is "working" a 1% improvement? 5%? Is it holding ground? Yet the language sets the tone that Bush is doing something that's "working".

Am I the ultimate cynic in that I believe it doesn't matter what the polls say but, rather, how they are posited? I'm profoundly disturbed at what I perceive to be a media turnaround in tone.

The media has a boom-and-bust cycle history. They also do bandwagon stuff. The iraqi election is really the last try at turning things around. But Iraq has such a flawed constitution and process that it's not capable of turning around in the time frame of American interest (the winner is Iran, not Iraq). Short term, there may be a change in perception but according to Pew, it ain't happened yet, and the NBC/WSJ poll supports that pov. And as noted, i don't consider going from 37 to 42 (if that) is a huge turnaround, let alone 38 to 39 as in the NBC/WSJ.

it very much matters what the polls say. And it very much matters that seniors hate the new medicare drug program. And it doesn't matter how the iraqi elections are presented this week... it's how they are presented next month and beyond.

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