Real Clear Politics has posted the first poll data I’ve seen on the Swift Boat Vets and how their charges are affecting public perceptions of John Kerry. The results of the poll, by Fabrizio McLaughlin, are here.
Surprisingly, I think, 58% of respondents in swing states say that they have heard about the Vets’ ad criticizing Kerry’s claims relating to his military service. That suggests to me that the issue resonates with voters. Of the 58% who are aware of the ad, just over 50% say that it has no impact on their voting preference. But fully 27% of respondents say it makes them less likely to vote for Kerry. Given that the issue is just beginning to take off, and very few people are yet aware of the full extent of John (pocketa, pocketa, pocketa) Kerry’s credibility problem, that’s a pretty alarming percentage for the Democrats.
On the other hand, whatever damage the Vets may be doing does not yet show up in head-to-head polling between Kerry and President Bush. The Rasmussen Tracking Poll has shown Kerry with a three-point lead for the last three days, which represents a complete polling cycle. That’s the first time in quite a while that has happened. Rasmussen has suggested that Kerry’s bump relates to last week’s bad news on jobs, to which I would add the currently-slumping stock market.
The economy does seem to be the most likely explanation, suggesting that for now, at least, voters’ economic worries are canceling out doubts about Kerry’s vaunted military service. Whether that will change depends, I suppose, on how the economy performs over the coming weeks and how much more people learn about Kerry’s record in general, and his Christmas in Cambodia fantasies in particular.
BIG TRUNK adds: Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal editorial page ran a column that elegantly demonstrated the inverse relationship between Kerry’s electoral prospects and the stock market averages: When Kerry goes up, the averages go down. The performance of the stock market is not a drag on Bush’s poll ratings; John Kerry’s poll ratings are a drag on the stock market.
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