Poll: Bush a Liability for McCain

A new NBC/WSJ poll shows that being seen as too close to George W. Bush is bringing John McCain down. I’m pretty sure that Peter Hart and Neil Newhouse already knew that, since I did, but it’s good to put a number on these things (43 percent, as it turns out).

Other interesting findings:

  • 36 percent have major concerns that Clinton seems to change her position on some issues (like driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants and the North American Free Trade Agreement, which her husband signed but which she now opposes)
  • 34 percent say they’re bothered by Obama’s “bitter” remarks
  • 32 percent have a major problem with the Illinois senator’s past associations with Wright and the 1960s radical William Ayers
  • 27 percent have serious concerns that Bill Clinton would have too much influence on U.S. policy decisions if his wife is elected

I’d be interested in the crosstabs on these, however. Are the people with these “concerns” and “problems” supporters of the other candidate? Republicans? Indeed, given that 43-45 percent of the public is predisposed to vote for McCain against either Obama or Clinton, it’s surprising that the numbers on all three questions are so small. They may actually be non-problems. [Update: I emailed Newhouse and he points out that these are major and serious concerns and that the numbers “flatten out” when adding in those with moderate concerns.]

The poll also seems to confirm that McCain was the Republicans’ best option in this environment:

Indeed, even though Democrats have an 18-point advantage over Republicans in a generic presidential ballot test (51-33 percent), this latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey shows Obama besting McCain by only three points (46-43 percent) and Clinton topping the Arizona senator by only one (45-44 percent).

“This poll,” Newhouse said, “continues to show a very difficult road for Republicans in the fall — with the exception of John McCain, who is running toe to toe with the Democrats.”

We’ll see what those numbers do once the Democrats have a nominee, though. The winner (almost certainly Obama, despite Bittergate and the Wright flap) will assuredly get a significant bounce; whether they’ll keep it is another question.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Public Opinion Polls, , , , , , , , ,
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. SDM says:

    Most interesting result is that almost 60% of those polls think it’s a major or moderate concern that John McCain is a flip-flopper. In the face of a very well-calculated media strategy by McCain to be the “straight talker,” that can’t be a fun stat for his team to see. That’s significantly more than are concerned about Wright.

    From the poll:

    “It is hard to tell where John McCain stands on the issues because he changes his positions on things like making the recent federal tax cuts permanent and opposing new gun control laws to improve his chances of being elected”…31% major concern, 28% moderate concern.

  2. Bithead says:

    Gee, the timing here seems interesting. Here we have Obama in the wrost trouble he’s been in since the chase for the WH began, and suddenly we have this little diversion come along.

  3. Michael says:

    Gee, the timing here seems interesting. Here we have Obama in the wrost trouble he’s been in since the chase for the WH began, and suddenly we have this little diversion come along.

    Yeah, I mean, why else would they be running polls on John McCain in the middle of an election year?

  4. yetanotherjohn says:

    As a rule of thumb, I assume that 1/3 will have a problem with anything a republican or democrat says/does. The represents the hard core partisans on either side. I agree that this would be a lot more useful and interesting if we had the cross tabs (and the sample was large enough to make the cross-tabs viable) so we can see if this is just partisans who aren’t going to vote for the other guy anyway, persuadable independents or is eroding the base.

    BTW SDM, As Joyner points out, only the “major/serious” concerns are talked about because the moderates flatten out the results. So adding moderate to get your number is comparing apples to oranges.

  5. Anderson says:

    32 percent have a major problem with the Illinois senator’s past associations with Wright and the 1960s radical William Ayers

    And how many of those people were remotely likely to vote Democratic in the first place?

    32% is about where the GOP’s base is these days.

  6. Bithead says:

    Yeah, I mean, why else would they be running polls on John McCain in the middle of an election year?

    Not quite that simple, Mike. he’s not exactly been in the forefront of the news of late and won’t until these other issues are squared. The poll results take on a tone of “stop fighting each other, when you can be attacking Bush”.