Democrats Not Gaining from Bush’s Low Poll Numbers

While the Iraq War and high gas prices have pushed President Bush’s poll numbers into the low 40s, the Democrats are not getting a boost in those polls.

Democrats fail to gain traction from Bush slip (Washington Times)

Democrats hoped they would be scoring political points in this year’s election cycle as a result of increasing terrorist violence in Iraq and skyrocketing gasoline prices that have combined to send President Bush’s job-approval ratings plunging into the low 40s. But things are not turning out as they hoped. The Democrats are beset by internal division over the lack of an agenda, carping from liberals who say party leaders are not aggressive enough in challenging Mr. Bush’s nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court, bitterness among abortion rights activists after criticism by Democratic leaders that forced them to pull a TV advertisement attacking Judge Roberts, and complaints from pollsters that they have no coherent message to take into the 2006 elections.

ndependent pollster John Zogby says that although Mr. Bush is not doing well in the polls, the Democrats aren’t doing any better. “The Democrats aren’t scoring points in terms of landing any significant punches on Bush or in terms of saying anything meaningful to the American people,” Mr. Zogby said.

In a slap at his party, Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg said earlier this month that his surveys show that “one of the biggest doubts about Democrats is that they don’t stand for anything.”

Greenberg is on the right track, I think. It’s not so much that the Democrats don’t stand for anything. It’s just that, like the anti-Clinton Republicans in the latter half of the 1990s, the perception is that they are knee-jerk critics of whatever the administration proposes and have no real alternative vision.

It wasn’t true of the Gingrich Republicans then and isn’t really true of the Dean-Reid-Pelosi Democrats today. But Americans respond poorly to attacks on their president which, for a variety of reasons, are often viewed as an attack on the country itself. So, even though most Americans now think the Iraq War is going badly–and even a mistake–the Democrats do not gain from running the war (or its leader) down as “failure.”

Related: Poll: Public Likes Democrats Less than Republicans

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. NJ voter says:

    I think that is people truly knew the real story about the obvious successes in Iraq, then Americans would be fully behind the President once again.

    What would be wrong with the President actually holding a speech in Iraq itself. Would that not be a great way to focus attention on the great victories for freedom happening there?

  2. I think Newt and co. really were about ideas. Gingrich is probably THE political figure in the past few decades most willing to talk– in-depth– about actual policies and ideas.

    I read and listen to way more speeches by Pelosi and Dean and Reid, et al., than I care to. And they rarely ever have any actual alternative ideas. They truly are knee-jerk “oppose no matter what” critics, especially Pelosi. Well, especially Dean, too.

    Have you ever seen Dean, for example, on Meet The Press? He has no clue on policy. I mean, deer-in-headlights type of stuff. He defers to the same ridiculous talking points he was making back in 2003.

    Pelosi. Have you ever seen her give a press conference? It’s hilarious. She typically admits that she has no ideas other than to stop the President… “we must stop him!” I mean, she’s a freaking zombie robot with those lines and her awkward body language. It’s hilarious.

    And when the Democrats do propose an alternative to something like Social Security, it is clear they are just proposing something for the sake of proposing something, because they understand they are polling poorly on this dynamic. They understand they are perceived as obstructionists, so they pretend to have a plan. It’s ridiculous. And so transparent.

    So I am not sure where you are getting the “isn’t really true of the Dean-Reid-Pelosi Democrats today” stuff. Are you sure you’ve been paying attention to this stuff?

  3. James Joyner says:

    Will: I would argue that the party itself has plenty of ideas or at least ideological preferences. Certainly, the DLC wing does.

    They are, in my judgment, horribly ill served by their organizational leadership. Pelosi is no Tip O’Neil and Dean is a disaster.

  4. SoloD says:

    I think that Democrats will not been seen as gaining because of Bush’s poor poll numbers –until they do. By which I mean that if they win in 06.

    The Democratic Party is seen as “without ideas” primarily because they don’t have any national outlet for these ideas. Without Congress or the Presidency, the Party doesn’t really have much of any option, but oppose the Republicans. (I would add that this is good politics. By not proposing too much, it makes it very hard to attack the Democrats ideas.)

    It is important to remember that 94 was hardly the American public voting for Republicans and the Contract with America (polls show an overwhelming number of voters had never even heard of it), it was a vote against Clinton and the Democrats. It was only after the election that the Contract gained its prominence.

  5. The DLC : DNC :: Lincoln Chafee : RNC.

    The DLC is practically irrelevant today. And so is Dean’s DNC.

    The Center For American Progress and a few other supremely well-funded left-wing groups are sort of like the “shadow party” right now. They have more money, more influence, and more ideas than the actual party. They send out more press releases. They organize more functions. They (represented by John Podesta) even go on Meet The Press to provide the counterweight to RNC Chair Ken Mehlman. I mean, how weird is that?

    “Today on Meet The Press… Republican Party Chairman… and the leader of a new liberal group with more sway than the DNC.”

    I get all of the emails from the Center For American Progress. Yes, they have ideas, repeated ad nauseum.

    Socialism.

    Higher, more progressive income taxes.

    Federalized health care.

    Raising taxes on Social Security.

    Cutting and running in Iraq.

    Putting far left judicial activists on the bench.

    I mean, these emails are so objectionable. And so persistent. If Americans actually knew this was the driving force of the Democratic Party today, the numbers for Democrats would be even lower.

    They are better off just saying no.

  6. Pug says:

    What would be wrong with the President actually holding a speech in Iraq itself. Would that not be a great way to focus attention on the great victories for freedom happening there?

    Uh..I think because the security situation is so bad there they couldn’t guarantee his safety.

    I really can’t tell. Are you kidding? If you buy into the story that everything is great in Iraq but the liberal media just won’t tell you, whew, I don’t know what to say.

  7. Anderson says:

    I think that is people truly knew the real story about the obvious successes in Iraq, then Americans would be fully behind the President once again.

    What would be wrong with the President actually holding a speech in Iraq itself. Would that not be a great way to focus attention on the great victories for freedom happening there?

    Kind of funny: argue that the facts on Iraq support the President, and then argue for a glorified photo-op as the way to turn opinion around. How about a speech in Crawford that provides those “facts”?

    Gingrich is indeed full of ideas. Stupid ideas. My healthcare-wonk friend went to hear him speak on Medicaid today: ignorance or malice, or quite possibly both.

    The Dems do indeed have a complete lack of political prowess that is simply bewildering; the only way I can explain it is their habit of putting their campaigns in the hands of proven campaign-losers, thus generating dynasties of incompetence. They have no clue how to talk to mainstream Americans. FDR, thou shouldst be living at this hour.

  8. spencer says:

    What would be wrong with the President actually holding a speech in Iraq itself. Would that not be a great way to focus attention on the great victories for freedom happening there?

    Boy would I love to see this — but it has to show him driving in an open car from the airport to the green zone

  9. Herb says:

    It’s no wonder that the Dems are not picking up. All one hears from them is, “Set a time when the troops come home” (to hell with the consequences of such action, along with other anti American speech and so on and so on and so on.

    Couple that with the out and outright hate that comes with their every word.

    The American people are tired of this kind of “politics” no matter where it comes from. And the Dems are finding that out. Now let’s see if they are smart enough to change. I doubt it.

  10. Anderson says:

    Spencer, you’ve practically declared your wish to see Bush shot. I’d be nervous when the doorbell rings if I were you! 😉

  11. McGehee says:

    What would be wrong with the President actually holding a speech in Iraq itself. Would that not be a great way to focus attention on the great victories for freedom happening there?

    Uh..I think because the security situation is so bad there they couldn’t guarantee his safety.

    Do you really believe i’s worse there now than it was on that Thanksgiving that he showed up to serve dinner to the troops? Or is the “plastic turkey” meme now extending to whether he was ever really there?

  12. McGehee says:

    the Party doesn’t really have much of any option, but oppose the Republicans. (I would add that this is good politics. By not proposing too much, it makes it very hard to attack the Democrats ideas.)

    No, it’s terrible politics, from their perspective. This way, instead of attacking the Democrats’ ideas (because they don’t have any), we can lampoon them as emptyheaded and reactionary — and they don’t have anything to counter that.

    As for

    The Democratic Party is seen as “without ideas” primarily because they don’t have any national outlet for these ideas.

    Do you honestly believe that if they started talking ideas it wouldn’t get attention from the same outlets that were touting health care “reform” back in 1992 and set the stage for the HillaryCare near-miss of 1993-94? (And which demonstrates as clearly as anything how out-of-touch the establishment media was even then, with the American people.)

    The reason the Democrats don’t have ideas now is because the ideas they had back then have been rejected by the electorate. Repeatedly.