Grounds for Optimism

As most of you know, I’ve expressed some pessimistic feelings about the 2004 election a couple of times in the last week or so, for which I’ve been roundly denounced by a number of readers. Yesterday the Trunk pointed me to the most solid case for optimism I’ve seen in a long time, an assessment by Republican pollster Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group. It is located here in PDF format.
Goeas’ analysis is too lengthy to try to excerpt, and I recommend reading it all. Briefly, he notes the fact that the electorate is split very evenly between Republicans and Democrats, and argues that in that context President Bush’s current numbers are quite strong. He looks better at this point than either his father or Bill Clinton at corresponding moments in their first terms.
Goeas cites a lot of poll data, but the core of his argument is that 52% of the electorate solidly approves of President Bush–that is, they approve both of his policies and of him personally. Another 18% are what he calls “drop-off” voters; they approve either of President Bush personally (the largest number) or of his policies. Only 23% disapprove of the President both personally and politically. That’s the quarter of the population that is the Democrats’ core constituency. Goeas argues, persuasively, that the 18% of voters who approve of President Bush at least in part are a target of opportunity allowing Bush to build on what is already a slight majority.
Goeas also offers reassuring words on the current climate–commented on by Deacon yesterday–in which every day brings new and more vicious attacks on the President, which the White House seems to make little effort to counter:
“The Fall leading up to the presidential election year often times can be one of the roughest times for an incumbent President, and in many ways, it is rougher than the Fall campaign a year later.
During this time period, the opposition party usually has a group of potential presidential candidates hammering away at the incumbent. Those challengers have the luxury of being in a time period where they can criticize what they do not like while taking no accountability for their own proposals–that time will end when they have a nominee. It is also a phase of the campaign when the incumbent is organizing and collecting resources, but little response is given to the onslaught of attacks from those who want to be president. This is smart politics for two reasons: 1) there is no need to answer each and every attack from the opposition (better to focus on the nominee when there can be a certain amount of accountability for what he said/proposed early in the campaign season), and 2) the lack of a response usually causes a feeding frenzy among the opposition’s presidential candidates, they get more bold, and they often say stupid things! Patience is the key for the incumbent. In the last twenty-five years, every incumbent President running for re-election has been behind in a Fall survey a year out from the election.”


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