Q&A Friday #64: Bush’s Popularity

Question: “President Bush’s approval rating is down to a record-low 28%. How much lower can it go? And do you think his complete inactivity since the ’06 election is due to trying not to go any lower in the polls, or is it because the Administration is too busy maneuvering legally behind the scenes to avoid impeachment?” — rastus

Answer: I’m not sure Bush’s approval rating can go much lower unless some big, unexpected event happens — and it’s really not quite as low as it looks. Bush’s RealClearPolitics average approval rating from 04/12 – 04/25 is 35.6%. Additionally, the shift from likely voters to adults that the pollsters make after the elections probably shaved 4-7 points off Bush’s numbers. So, I figure that Bush is really somewhere around 40% with likely voters, who, to be honest, matter one heck of a lot more than “adults.”

As to why his approval rating is so low, the war is part of it, but not necessarily even the greater part of it.

If you think back to Bush’s first term, his team looked like they had a tight political game, but it has become apparent that the popularity of the war on terror, the incompetence of the Dems, and luck played a big role in it because in Bush’s 2nd term, when the war got a little less popular and the focus shifted more to domestic issues that Bush was weak on (Illegal Immigration and spending among others), the Administration has shown themselves to be utterly and completely politically incompetent.

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They can’t make a case for the things they support, they can’t adequately defend themselves, they have no idea how to use the bully pulpit or how to attack their political enemies, and they have foolishly allowed a gap to develop between the administration and the base. I mean there are undoubtedly mayors of two stoplight towns out there that could run circles around the whole Bush administration politically.

As far as their being “inactive” goes, I think the real problem is that they haven’t changed their game plan at all from the 1st term to the 2nd term. In the 1st term, when Bush was wildly popular because of his foreign policy stance, he could get by with ignoring the Democrats’ attacks being out of step with the rest of his part on domestic issues, but you can’t behave the same way at 35% approval as you do at 70% approval.

Long, long, ago, Bush should have shifted his position on domestic spending and illegal immigration, started going after the Dems much harder, and started working to repair the rift with the base. Instead, it was, “We’re going to dance with the strategy that got us here for another four years,” and that’s why Bush has an approval rating that’s perpetually stuck in the thirties.

As for impeachment — here’s a little secret: a Democratic impeachment attempt would probably be the best thing that ever happened to Bush because it would rally the base around him again and convince the American people that the Democrats are unfair, partisan hacks. That’s certainly what happened with Clinton and given how fed up the GOP base seems to be with the wimpiness of the GOP in Washington, apologies for nothing, and the witchhunts the Democrats are engaged in, I think it would happen again with Bush.

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