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As Bush's Polls Nosedive, Bush Needs More than One Dog to Wag
Steve Cobble

Get back, Iraq. Cool it, Colombia.

Harken and Halliburton are hurtin'.The President Select's poll numbers are falling - so soon more bombs are likely to be falling, too.

Here are a few quick numbers:

According to a recent Zogby Poll (1,109 likely voters, 7/12-15), Bush fell 7% in only a month (and 13% since March). Zogby noted that the President Select's job performance rating hit a "new low since 9/11," falling to only 62% positive, while rising to 38% negative.

MSNBC reported that the "Zogby America Poll, conducted Friday through Sunday, showed that 47 percent of likely voters believed that Bush deserved re-election, compared to 32 percent who said it was time for someone new."

MSNBC quoted pollster John Zogby: "Here is a president who was elected with only 48 percent of the popular vote, and more than 1 1/2 years later, even in a time of war, remains stuck in that position."

The Ipsos-Reid Poll of 2,000 adults, conducted partly in June and partly in July (1,574 registered voters, 6/21-23 & 7/11-14) had more bad news for the Shrub. For the first time this year, Bush's re-elect number fell below half among registered voters:
definitely vote to re-elect: 45%
would consider someone else: 29%
definitely vote for someone else: 23%

Even worse, the half of the poll conducted in July was worse than the half finished in June. (Does this perhaps reflect the deterioration of the economy, the Harken and Halliburton scandals, and the rising sense of deja vu that George W. Bush is in over his head?):
definitely vote to re-elect: 42%
would consider someone else: 31%
definitely vote for someone else: 24%

In addition, Ipsos-Reid found that for the first time in 2002, more voters thought things were going in the "wrong direction" than in the "right direction."

MSNBC also reported that Bush "appeared to suffer significant damage from the plummeting stock market and the accounting scandals...46 percent of adults questioned by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal said they disapproved of the job Bush was doing specifically on 'the problems of the financial markets and major corporations.'"

Meanwhile, the White House and the RNC attempted to divert reporters' attention from the President Select's shrinking poll numbers. According to a front-page story in the Washington Post by Jonathan Weisman and Dan Balz, "the plunging stock market touched off a dispute yesterday between the White House and a leading Republican polling firm... A recent poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies...warns that what once was an incumbent-friendly environment could turn against Republicans in the fall.

The poll showed that a majority of those surveyed said the country has gone off track and that a plurality now say the country is heading into a recession." Bush polling director Matthew Dowd "countered" by "debunking" the POS warning about the right direction/wrong direction question. The Post reported that "Dowd said perceptions of whether the country is heading in the right direction are roughly the same as they were just before Sept. 11, though down sharply from post-Sept. 11 highs."

Dowd, of course, is the pollster who convinced much of the traveling press corps that Bush was going to win on election day by 5% or more, which may help you separate the numbers from the spin. But this is still not much of a defense--can you remember what the President Select's ratings were right before 9/11? They were basically at the same level as his election results--Zogby had him at 50% positive and 49% negative, right before 9/11! And he was on a downward trend.

At least three things about these numbers will worry Karl Rove a great deal:
(1) the continuing decline in the Shrub's job performance rating;
(2) the President Select's below-50% re-elect numbers - remember the rule of thumb - an incumbent running for re-election with re-elect numbers below 50% is in some trouble - and 42% is well below 50%;
(3) the "right direction/wrong direction" poll numbers have always been regarded as a good shorthand indicator of how well an incumbent is really doing - and the current numbers are poor, with a down bullet.

To steal Frank Rich's perfect image, just "wagging the dog" may not be enough to distract a worried nation from all this mess - the President Select is going to have to "unleash the whole kennel" this time.

As they used to say in the 1950's nuclear weapons drills: Duck and cover.