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Jewish World Review Oct. 30, 2002 / 24 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Consumer Reports

What is causing
Bush's free fall? | Just when control of Congress hangs in the balance, President George W. Bush is losing the very popularity he so desperately needs to gain control of the Senate and keep power in the House. According to the Fox News survey of October 22-24, Bush's job approval has slipped to 60% down from 66% two weeks ago and 69% in August. His personal favorability has dropped to 62% from 72% in August.

For the first time since 9-11, Bush's job approval ratings have dropped below those Bill Clinton maintained throughout his second term, even in the midst of impeachment proceedings.

Indeed, the last time a midterm election resulted in a partisan rout, in 1994, the auger of Democratic disaster was a drop in Clinton's job approval in the period immediately before the balloting.

What is causing Bush's free fall?

  • Support for an invasion of Iraq has dropped from 72% to 62% in the past fourteen days. Bush and his folks are so distracted by their diplomatic dance with France and Russia that they have fallen down on the job of convincing the American people that an invasion is needed.

  • Bush has been hit with a continuous six month fall in his ratings on "managing the economy." Look at how the percent that approve of his performance in that realm have dropped during this period:

    April 30 64%
    June 4 62%
    July 2 55%
    Sept 2 52%
    Oct 22 48%

    By campaigning for Republican candidates around the nation, Bush seems to be undermining the case for a military emergency requiring immediate action against Iraq. If the United States is, indeed, under a sword of Damocles, when what is the president doing campaigning and eating rubber chicken as if nothing were amiss.

History may be repeating itself. When Bill Clinton returned from his successful trip to the Middle East in October of 1994, he found that his job approval had risen ten points as a result of his "presidential" image in negotiating a peace deal between Jordan and Israel. Determined to use that popularity to re-elect Democrats who had voted for his tax program, he immediately toured the nation giving political speeches. The public soon forgot all about the "presidential" president they had seen in the Middle East and Clinton's job approval dropped the ten points he had gained. The result was a 1994 disaster for the Democrats.

For their part, the Democrats have triangulated the war with Iraq, giving the president the resolution he wanted and thereby dismissing it as a campaign issue. As a result, it has lost its political punch. Asked in the Fox News poll which issue "will be the most important in deciding your vote for Congress this fall" voters cited the economy (25%), terrorism (17%), education (14%), health care (13%), Social Security (11%), and Iraq at only 5%.

Apart from terror and Iraq, all these issues have a sharp Democratic skew. The Party could not hope for a better mix of issues as it goes into the fall elections.

To salvage his chances of victory, Bush needs to stop campaigning, stop futzing with the U.N., and start to re-create a national sense of urgency about Iraq and terror in general. He needs to set a deadline by which time the US will open fire in Iraq and begin moving troops there to enforce it. He can then tell France and Russia to come along if they wish and lapse into irrelevance if they don't. The only good news for Bush is that his ratings for handling terrorism are still very high - 67% -- but the issue is losing its political salience.

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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, "Power Plays: Top 20 Winning and Losing Strategies of History's Great Political Leaders" Comment by clicking here.


10/25/02: Anybody sense a trend?
10/23/02: A deadline for Iraq
10/18/02: Only sure bet of 2002 elections is voter angst
10/16/02: Endangered incumbents
10/11/02: Why multilateralism doesn't work
10/09/02: Hey, Dems: Believe NYTimes polling at your own risk
10/03/02: Dem suicide: Let's count the ways
09/30/02: The Dems just can't stop themselves
09/26/02: The perils of polling
09/19/02: W. boxed in the U.N.
09/19/02: Welfare reform: Keep on keeping on
09/12/02: Are Dems insane on Iraq?
09/09/02: Twin shadows of Election '02
09/05/02: GOP should triangulate
08/28/02: Trust the military
08/22/02: It's not the economy, stupid
08/09/02: As America unites, Gore goes divisive
08/01/02: Bush must focus on big picture
07/23/02: Election 2002: Advantage Dems
07/19/02: Rudy for SEC tough cop
07/17/02: The investor strike
07/15/02: Door open for drug testing students --- go for it, GOP!
07/12/02: Dubya looking out for No. 1?
07/03/02: The DNA war for Bush's soul
06/21/02: Why are conservatives winning?
06/19/02: Learning to love the feds
06/14/02: Hey, journalists and Dems: Dubya is doing just fine
06/12/02: It's terrorism, stupid!
06/10/02: Sanctions are a potent weapon
06/04/02: Al Qaeda's more dangerous new front
05/31/02: Why '04 looks tough for liberal Dems
05/24/02: Democratic self-destruction
05/22/02: The Clinton failures
05/15/02: Pataki positioned to win
05/08/02: A wakeup-call for American Jewry
05/03/02: Give Bush back his focus
05/01/02: Immigration fault li(n)es
04/25/02: It's the war, stupid
04/17/02: Bush goes small bore
04/12/02: Bush must be a gentle partisan
04/10/02: In defense of polling
04/08/02: Focus on Iraq, not the Palestinians
04/01/02: Only Internet will bring real campaign finance reform
03/27/02: Where W's drawn a line in the sand
03/22/02: Enron scandal will not trigger a wave of economic populism
03/20/02: Term-limited --- by war
03/15/02: Europe doesn't have a clue
03/11/02: Bush popularity = GOP win?
03/01/02: Will America be forced to chase its tail in its war on terrorism?
02/27/02: The Arafat/Saddam equilibrium must be destroyed
02/21/02: Campaign finance reform won't hurt GOPers
02/13/02: Dodd scurries for cover
02/11/02: U.S. 'unilateralism'? The Europeans don't have a case
02/06/02: WAR: What women want
02/01/02: They all talk in the end
01/30/01: The odd couple: Chris Dodd and Arthur Andersen
01/22/01: His father's son? Bush better get an 'Act II' fast!
01/18/01: Dubya & the 'vision thing'
01/14/01: The Rumsfeld Doctrine 01/03/01: A President Gore would have been a disaster
01/03/02: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history

© 2001, Dick Morris