According to Politico, President Obama’s support has declined to the point that only 50 percent of voters now say they prefer having him as President to George W. Bush. Forty-four percent say they’d rather have Bush.
In one sense, this isn’t very surprising. Most people probably don’t believe they are better off economically than they were, on average, during the Bush presidency. In fact, it’s not clear that most people think they are better off now than they were at the end of Bush’s tenure.
In addition, we haven’t fared any better in Afghanistan under Obama than we did under Bush, though one hopes this will change soon. Bush authored a successful surge in Iraq; it remains to be seen whether Obama will do as well in Afghanistan.
Bush came across as more single-minded in fighting terrorists than Obama does. He certainly didn’t offer KSM a jury trial in federal court in New York City. Nor did he promise to close Gitmo, much less fail timely to keep such a promise. Folks have probably noticed this.
Bush didn’t go around the world apologizing for America. He also did not bow to foreign leaders and despots. This contrast presumably has been noticed too.
Bush had a chummy manner. It annoyed some, but perhaps not as many as are put off by Obama’s cold fish demeanor.
Bush had miserable approval ratings of course. But his father’s were quite low too, and it wasn’t long before many voters were looking back reasonably fondly on his presidency. I don’t think this will happen with George W. Bush, but it doesn’t have to for him to get within shouting distance of where Obama is now.
If the Obama vs. Bush poll numbers seem shocking it’s because of the left’s over-the-top portrayal of Bush. Recall, for example, those bumper stickers — and bumper sticker quality historians — that claimed Bush was the worst president ever.
If Bush really is one of the very worst presidents ever, then it’s surprising that he would be within six percentage points of Obama in a head-to-head matchup. It also suggests that the public rates Obama as well below average, even though he is about break even in his approval rating.
But the reality is that Bush wasn’t nearly that bad and the public perhaps has realized as much.
UPDATE: Here’s another point of comparison between Bush and Obama. The public did not view Bush as having intentionally deceived it. For the most part, he was a “what you see is what you get” kind of guy To be sure, in 2000 America didn’t believe it was electing an interventionist, nation-building president. But Bush changed in response to an unexpected and searing event, 9/11, which also transformed how many Americans looked at the world.
Obama cast himself as a “post-partisan” president. Americans did not understand this to mean that he would govern from the left. The fact that independents have turned against Obama has much to with their perception that he did not adhere to the principle of truth in advertising.
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