DALLAS (FinalCall.com)–While President Bush continues to enjoy high approval ratings on the administration’s handling of its war against Iraq and homeland security, his popularity on issues of health care, the economy and taxes continues to decline, according to a new job performance poll released by Newsweek magazine.
The failure to provide proof of weapons of mass destruction in war-torn Iraq–the expressed reasons for the war–will also have a damning effect on the public’s view of Mr. Bush as time goes on and could lead to his dethroning in the 2004 general election, analysts say. More importantly, the instability of the U.S. economy promises to raise the ire of the American public even more.
“It could doom his presidency. But the other thing that can doom it is that they (mainstream media) keep polling likely voters,” 2004 presidential hopeful Rev. Al Sharpton told The Final Call, referring to the poll. In an exclusive interview, Rev. Sharpton said the “way to beat Bush is to register hundreds of thousands of unregistered, unlikely voters or those who would vote if they had one to vote for.”
Most Americans are not voting, Rev. Sharpton said, claiming he is the only candidate that knows how to generate a movement to get disillusioned potential voters to the polls.
“That’s why you have to expand the voter base, otherwise you just have a bunch of career politicians arguing about their careers as opposed to the tasks ahead,” he said.
The poll taken of registered voters April 10-11 gave the President high marks for his handling of Iraq and preventing terrorism (69 percent), and said they would like to see Mr. Bush re-elected to another term as president; 38 percent oppose Bush, while 11 percent remained non-committal.
The President’s proposed tax cuts have been a major focus of the Bush administration’s domestic policy and continue in controversy. According to the poll, nearly 25 percent of American voters see the proposed tax cuts as necessary. But slightly more than that (29 percent) see them as more dangerous given the current financial circumstances. Thirty-nine percent did not believe additional tax cuts would make a difference at all.
“You have to remember that in 1990 after the first Gulf War, Bush’s father’s (George Bush Sr.) numbers were much, much, much better than his son’s” and he was not re-electable, said David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. “Bush Sr. did not have anywhere near as many people who were totally and completely opposed to him,” he said.
Mr. Bositis told The Final Call that with the war in Iraq over, the primary issue on the minds of the voting public next year would be the economy and how it’s performing.
“The economy is not doing all that well right now. It could improve, but it can also get worse. Bill Clinton raised taxes and the economy had the best record of any president in recent memory,” Mr. Bositis said. “Low interest rates got people to buy cars, homes and things that are sensitive to interest rates. Now the budget is way out of whack and the chance of interest rates climbing again are very real. Bush is eminently beatable.”
No democratic backbone
According to the poll, 62 percent said the economy and jobs would be the most important issues in next year’s presidential election; 23 percent said terrorism and homeland security; 12 percent said both will be equally important.
“There is the capacity for his numbers to continue to drop,” political analyst Dr. Ron Walters told The Final Call. Especially now since his economic plan is under attack in the Congress, he said.
“If you recall, he wanted $100 trillion in tax cuts. That went down to $700 billion. It is now under $500 billion, and he is fighting for his (political) life because there are some in Congress who want to reduce it to $350 billion–a lot of them are in his own party. So, it doesn’t look as though he will be able to come out of this with as big of a punch to land on the economy as he thought he would have. That, I believe, is going to depress even further his servability ratings,” he said.
The thing that would depress his ratings even further, Dr. Walters said, would be the presence of “backbone” in the Democratic Party to forcefully challenge the issues and show the administration’s contradictions.
He said lack of proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the tax cut plan controversy, health care issues and the economy already are negatives against the President’s ratings. But it’s another thing entirely for the Party to drive them (rating numbers) down, he said.
“You got major candidates who are repositioning the Democratic Party to do that ‘me too’ stuff,” Dr. Walters said. “(Richard) Gephardt, (John) Kerry, (John) Edwards are hawkish on the war and are so-called moderates on the social programs with the exception of Richard Gephardt’s health program. To me, that is sort of like Republican-Lite. If they continue like this, they are going to run into the same problems as those found with the elections of 2002. How many of the people are going to be excited enough to turn out and vote for these clowns?”
“Isn’t it strange that in the last two years, we have not seen any massive voter registration by the Democratic Party?” Rev. Sharpton asked. “So why are we arguing about winning a dwindling crop of voters rather than expanding the voter rolls?”
Candidates square off
On May 3, a nationally televised candidates’ debate amongst the democratic contenders was held in Columbia, S.C., and moderated by political analyst George Stephanopoulos.
Participating in the event were former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Sen. John Edwards, Sen. Bob Graham, Rep. Richard Gephardt, Sen. John Kerry, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, 2000 Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Rev. Sharpton.
It was a 90-minute face-off over issues of military deployment, defense and war in Iraq with very little emphasis on social issues with the exception of candidate Rep. Gephardt’s health plan discussion.
“I felt that this format put together by ABC totally marginalized the Black candidates for this debate,” Dr. Walters said. “They were not considered to have enough sense or responsibility to deal with the weighty issues of the day, and they were prevented from speaking a number of times. And, the people in mainstream media the next day (promoted) those who had republican-like attitudes and credentials. It’s centrist politics,” he said.
Former Senator Moseley-Braun squarely addressed the issues of civil liberties and the inherent danger of the 2001 U.S. Patriot Act.
“I really think we have a real crisis in America when it comes to our civil liberties, and I do hope that this act will be repealed,” she said. “I hope that we will all take very seriously rolling back some of the assaults on privacy that this administration has begun.”
Sen. Edwards agreed.
“I think the problem with the Patriot Act is not the law itself, it’s the way it’s being administered, particularly the way it’s being administered by the attorney general of the United States, General Ashcroft,” Sen. Edwards said. “It is why I have proposed taking away from the F.B.I. the responsibility of fighting terrorism here in this country and simultaneously setting up an independent watchdog group, the Office of Civil Liberties and Civil Rights.”
“I think that the format was not given to where you can get a lot of what you wanted out because the questioner was able to decide the tone of the discussion. For instance, he wanted to talk about the Gephardt plan rather than a Sharpton plan. So I had to struggle with that. I was the only one who mentioned South Carolina flag. How can you wave the American flag in Baghdad and at the same time hoist the Confederate flag in South Carolina? How do you not raise that as a question during a debate?” he asked.