Turn of the tide?

Who would have believed it six months ago?

Bush Loses Advantage in War on Terrorism
Nation Evenly Divided on President, Kerry

Public anxiety over mounting casualties in Iraq and doubts about long-term consequences of the war continue to rise and have helped to erase President Bush’s once-formidable advantage over Sen. John F. Kerry concerning who is best able to deal with terrorist threats, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Exactly half the country now approves of the way Bush is managing the U.S. war on terrorism, down 13 percentage points since April, according to the poll. Barely two months ago, Bush comfortably led Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, by 21 points when voters were asked which man they trusted to deal with the terrorist threat. Today the country is evenly divided, with 48 percent preferring Kerry and 47 percent favoring Bush.

With fewer than 10 days before the United States turns over governing power to Iraq, the survey shows that Americans are coming to a mixed judgment about the costs and benefits of the war. Campaign advisers to both Bush and Kerry believe voters’ conclusions about Bush and Iraq will play a decisive role in determining the outcome of the November election.

Of course, terrorism and national security are the crown jewels of the Bush campaign. With those lost, what does he have to stand on? The economy is getting better, but most of the recovery is being enjoyed on the corporate and not the individual level. Iraq is the issue. It represents so much of how the Bush White House operates in terms of making decisions, keeping secrets, telling lies, aggrandizing itself (“Mission Accomplished”), breaking the law and flip-flopping at every turn.

It is deeply ironic that what was only six month’s ago the administration’s diamond necklace has transmogrified into the hangman’s noose. As evidence mounts that Iraq has cost us the war on terror, there will simply be no way out.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum has a great post on this poll with a vivid graphic. He comes to interesting conclusions.

I happened to run into Hugh Hewitt at lunch again today — he lives right across the freeway from me — and in an effort to keep up a facade of good cheer he offered to make a bet: if Kerry wins he turns over his blog to me for a week; if Bush wins he gets my blog for a week.

I laughed and returned to my sandwich, which is probably a good thing for Hugh. Terrorism is central to Bush’s chances this November, and if his approval ratings on terrorism aren’t at least 10 points ahead of Kerry by October, he’s going down in flames.

Which is exactly what’s happened to every other president who’s won office with fewer popular votes than his opponent. One termers all.

Update 2: Billmon found this to be the poll’s highlight:

Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?

Approve: 47%
Disapprove: 51%
No opinion: 1%

Q: Thinking back to when Bill Clinton was in office, would you say you approve or disapprove of the way Clinton handled his job as president?

Approve: 62%
Disapprove: 37%
No opinion: 1%

The Discussion: One Comment

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December 21, 2004 @ 9:13 pm | Comment

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