Bush Bounce?

The Gallup Poll is reporting a rebound in President Bush’s approval rating, up to 44%. The poll was conducted September 15-17. On the other hand, Rasmussen Reports finds that the sharp increase in Bush’s approval rating that was noted following the September 11 anniversary has now completely dissipated.

This seems odd to me. How can a bounce that obviously relates to a fundamental issue–national security–simply disappear after only a few days? One hypothesis is that a great many Americans still don’t trust the Democrats with the nation’s security. This has been a big reason why the Republicans have gained seats in each of the last three elections. On a day to day basis, that brute fact is papered over by the headlines of the moment and the grievances that inevitably accumulate over the course of an administration. And yet, the voters’ underlying concerns about national defense may again emerge in the voting booth.

This is, in my view, one of the factors that make November’s election difficult to forecast.

UPDATE: The Gallup poll also finds the generic Congressional preference ballot even between the parties, among likely voters. Frankly, I think that’s too good to be true. But it does illustrate a basic problem faced by the Democrats. Having chosen not to run on any positive program, they are at the mercy of events. If oil prices fall, voters are reminded of the Democrats’ record on national security, etc., their superficially strong position could erode quickly.

The poll, if believed, has another piece of bad news for Democrats: among likely voters, Republicans are slightly more likely than Democrats to say that they are “extremely motivated” or “very motivated” to vote in November.