Captain Ed notes that the Gallup poll shows Bush ahead of the margin of error against Kerry. The poll of likely voters shows a split of 51% to 46% in Bush’s favor among likely voters polled Friday through Sunday.
Now, polls are only so useful when the election is several months away. However, the last month has been nothing but anti-Bush news: unrest in Iraq, Richard Clarke’s scurrilous accusations, the September 11 committee grandstanding, and Kerry’s constant attacks.
And yet Bush’s numbers have gone up despite all of this. Why could this be? Well, I think Captain Ed has the right idea:
The pollsters attribute the lack of movement to a polarized electorate, but you may just as well say it’s a disgusted electorate. With the President’s approval rating holding steady, voters want a reason to change horses in the midstream of a war, and instead of reasoned discourse, all they get from the opposition is Bush hatred and a candidate who can’t give a straight answer on almost any issue.
This is what John Kerry and the Democrats have so far failed to understand. It’s not enough to sell yourself as the anti-Bush; you already have the 40% of the electorate that will decide their vote on that basis. Kerry has to give people a reason to vote for him, not just against George Bush. Until he does, he’ll continue to lag behind Bush all the way to November.
Indeed the Democrats are relentlessly partisan. A good 40% of the electorate has a visceral hatred of Bush – but hatred doesn’t sell. The rest of the electorate not only doesn’t buy the Bush-hating line, but are actively repelled by it.
That’s what the Democrats don’t get. Put a group of moderate voters in front of Air America or show them Kos’ “screw them” post and they will not only not be moved, but they’ll be actively turned off by it. The Democrats think that calling people names like “wingnuts” or “neocons” or saying that only rich people are Republicans will get them elected.
Instead of painting themselves by what they are, the Democrats have painted themselves by what they hate – and by doing so they’ve let Bush define who Kerry is (and it shows in Kerry’s abysmal numbers on trustworthyness and specific issue positions). The American people know that Bush will stand for continuing the war on terror, keeping taxes low, and defending the homeland. The voters also know that Kerry stands for… well… not being Bush.
Given that choice, it’s perhaps little wonder that months of constant attacks and smearing aren’t moving the American people towards the Democrats.