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Rice Throwing and Bush Dropping

March 29th, 2004

Condoleezza Rice remains steady in her insistence that she, as National Security Advisor, should not appear before the 9/11 commission. Why? Because someone in her position should never testify on matters of policy in an investigation, as much as she desperately wishes she could testify. Yeah, right. Josh Marshall points out how insipid that excuse is. Not to mention that it apparently is OK for Rice to make it her new full-time job appear on pretty much every talk show in existence. How is that really different in terms of principle? It seems pretty likely, from her absolute refusal to testify now, and the many rather obvious lies she’s told, that if she appears before that commission, she believes that she’ll be ripped apart on a variety of issues.

Polling information taken after Richard Clarke’s revelations show that Bush’s ratings on handling terror have dropped significantly to 57% from a 70% last month suggesting that the massive, concerted character attacks on Clarke didn’t have much effect. Strangely, Bush’s poll numbers in terms of popularity and he remains neck-and-neck with Kerry in the race for president. The media suggests that perhaps the American people don’t factor terrorism handling as important in their consideration for who should be president, but frankly, I have the feeling that we’re still seeing the post-9/11 support-the-president factor at work here.

Consider that Bush’s natural state in polls is to drop steadily unless some crisis or important story bumps him up. Then consider that Bush has hit a basement plateau at just under 50%. Usually a president has about 30% to 35% as his absolute base, the number of people who’d vote for him no matter what. In the polls, though, Bush’s limit seems to be his current state, as he has hovered there for some three months now, despite bad news, embarrassments and massive foot-shooting that has been going on almost every day. How can that be?

I think what we’re seeing is an artificially enlarged base due to the post-9/11 factor, where people give nominal support to the president because that’s what people do in frightening times. The question is, does that kind of support translate to the ballot box? You’ll not be surprised when I tell you that I think the answer is “no.” What people tell the pollsters is not always what they decide to do at the polls. I recall back in 1992, when I was renting a room at a house in San Francisco while getting my B.A., my landlord, a Republican who many times spoke for Bush Sr. and against Clinton, surprised me near election day when he told me he’d be voting for Clinton. “I know that he’ll raise my taxes,” he told me sourly, ” but frankly I think that’s the right thing to do.” Before he voted, he was supporting his party, but when he went to the polls, he voted what he felt was right.

In terms of Bush’s current popularity, I think people are telling pollsters they support the presidency in a time of perceived crisis–but I really do not think that this necessarily translates to support for Bush. So many people have heard the sentiment that if you don’t support the president, then you are helping the terrorists, and I think a lot of people believe that. But when people go to the polls, I think they will vote not as a show of support, but based on what their beliefs are.

And let’s not forget the BlogD Mantra: turnout, turnout, turnout. That doesn’t show up in polls.

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