January 31, 2006


Off to the Races (Charlie Cook, 1/31/2006)

This year's speech is a particular challenge for Bush because he must, as presidents are wont to do, sound bold, ambitious and purposeful. But because of the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina and tax cuts, he has little available money with which to be bold, ambitious and purposeful. So he must, instead, resort to offering things that sound grand but won't cost a great deal of money, like, perhaps, health savings accounts.

Look at it this way: The president has to stand up at the podium for one hour and look and sound good while not proposing huge new sums of government spending. Let's face it; there is not a lot that government does that does not cost money, one way or the other.

In effect, the president has to go on national television and tread water for an hour, while trying to make it look like he's swimming the butterfly stroke. That will be difficult to do. But even if Bush does accomplish that feat, the result might not be a significant bump in his job-approval ratings.

Mr. Cook is widely described as a non-partisan political analyst, but his frequent embrace of false liberal premises makes, I believe, much of his analysis invalid. Here is a good example: he thinks that to be bold, ambitious, and purposeful one must spend lots of other people's money -- that there cannot be any bold, ambitious shrinkage of government. To refrain from "proposing huge new sums of government spending" is to merely "tread water."

In fact, President Bush hardly needs to speak boldly, because he has demonstrated a willingness to act boldly. Rather, he is best served by continuing to act boldly while using these speeches as an opportunity to spread balm on partisan divisions, calm the political dialogue and blunt the edges of conflict. He need merely affirm his policies --taking action against terror-sponsoring regimes & promoting freedom and democracy abroad (Iran), restoring a law-abiding judiciary (Alito), and migrating from government-centric to people-centric institutions at home (health care) -- while reaching out to moderates and making them feel at home with him.

Such a speech will be easy to do, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it is followed by a bump in his job-approval ratings. Cook says the president's approval rating is now at 42%. Look for it to be at 50% in a week.

Posted by pjaminet at January 31, 2006 10:59 AM

Polls on Bush are meaningless at this point, for two reasons: (1) people never have to make a decision on whether to vote for him again for anything ever; and (2) his popularity is capped at 50-52%-- he will never win over the BDS victims and the soft headed liberl secular voters. Add them to those dependent on the government dole and affirmative action, and you get a frighteningly high percentage of permanent numbnuts Bush disapprovers. But, given the electoral map and the advantage given to small states, we can still beat them. We will have to divide, not unite, for a long time. Our best bet long term is getting folks used to a defined contribution society with 401(k)'s, HSA' etc.

Posted by: Dan at January 31, 2006 11:28 AM

Excellent commentary.

Posted by: Palmcroft at January 31, 2006 11:52 AM

Agree on Cook - I stopped following his political handicapping when it became apparent he was firmly entrenched in the Beltway pundit mindset.

Rasmussen has Bush at 50%. On Meet The Press Russert was qouting a LATimes poll with Bush in the 30s. I trust Rasmussen more than the LATimes.

As for the SOTU Dems and the MSM will pan it no matter what Bush does. If Bush proposes to spend any money the GOP/Conservatives will be upset. So broad themes like tax reform, ss reform, etc without a lot of new programs is the way to go.

Posted by: AWW at January 31, 2006 12:00 PM

Just keep doing what you're doing, Mr. President.

Posted by: erp at January 31, 2006 12:02 PM

'.. so part of my new, bold, ambitious, purposeful agenda will be shutting down the Dept of Education..'


one can dream.

Posted by: JonofAtlanta at January 31, 2006 12:08 PM

Bush's polls do have some meaning--the more places Bush is popular, the more senate candidates he can help out. It's not a huge deal, but it's more helpful for his polls to be up than down.

Posted by: Timothy at January 31, 2006 12:24 PM

The corollary Republicans and Democrats need to look at, aside from whatever Bush poll numbers they want to view, is the polls showing the 2008 likely GOP candidates vs. the likely '08 Democratic candidates.

If Bush's numbers were really as low as the non-Rasmussen polls claim, then surely the Democratic presidential hopefuls would be outpolling the top Republican names, since the voters would be demanding major changes in Washington. But as far as I know, there's no poll out there showing Hillary, Kerry or anyone else beating McCain, or Giuliani, or even Condi Rice in a head-to-head match-up. So whatever Bush's numbers are, they're not translating into any increased support for what the Democrats are offering.

Posted by: John at January 31, 2006 12:55 PM



Posted by: Dan at January 31, 2006 2:13 PM

Hillary's high water mark will be around 44%, no matter what she says or does. Can any other Democrat even break 40% (maybe Edwards - but that is it). Kerry is looking at probably 37% and Gore might be below that. John is right.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 31, 2006 4:09 PM