The Myth Of The Kerry Republicans

E.J. Dionne says that there’s a political tidal wave forming against the President. He argues that the anti-Bush backlash will lead to Bush’s defeat in the coming elections.

Except his anecdotes don’t match up with the facts. For example, look at the survey results for the latest CBS/New York Times poll. The numbers completely contradict Dionne’s argument.

Looking at favorability ratings, Kerry has a favorability rating among Democrats of only 57% – which is quite low for a Presidential nominee. In comparison, Bush has a favorable rating with 79% of Republicans. The numbers are explicit – Republicans like Bush more than Democrats like Kerry. Indeed, when this question is asked in more detail the numbers continue to bear this out: 65% of likely Bush voters strongly like him, while only 37% of likely Kerry voters are specifically voting for Kerry. 36% are voting for Kerry not because they like him, but because they dislike Bush.

Furthermore, the chances of significant Republican crossover voting are smaller than Democratic crossover voting. The pool of Republicans who would consider Kerry stands at only 4%, while 10% of Democrats say they’ll vote for George W. Bush. This is consistant with previous polls that show crossover Democratic support for Bush at several times that of crossover Republican votes for Kerry.

Kerry has yet to articulate a coherent difference between himself and Bush on key issues like the war in Iraq. Voters aren’t voting for Kerry except for a small partisan core, they’re voting against Bush, and psychologically if voters know that the opposition is going to win, they’re not going to show up in the polls. In 1994 the Republican Revolution was not solely based on dislike of Clinton, but because the GOP had a coherent and appealing strategy with their Contract for America. In 1996, the Republicans ran on little more than dislike of Bill Clinton – one of the reasons why the Dole candidacy imploded in 1996. Voters didn’t particularly like Clinton – in fact half of all Clinton voters had second thoughts in 1996, but they still reelected him on the basis that Dole didn’t offer a coherent alternative stategy for the nation and the economy was strong enough for voters to support the status quo.

The fact is that consumer confidence remains high and the job market is dramatically improving. The first and primary factor for voters is their own pocketbook, and when Americans have a healthy pocketbook they tend to stay with the status quo rather than upset things. Given that Kerry, like Dole, is not a dynamic campaigner, the economy is doing well, and despite misgivings about Bush, there doesn’t appear to be a strong swing against him. If Kerry can’t be running well ahead of Bush now when Bush’s approval numbers are at their lowest point according to CBS, how well can he be expected to do if the rising economy and a stabilized Iraq start pushing those numbers back up? One thing is for certain, if Kerry thinks that a rising tide of Republican dislike of Bush will lift him into office he is sorely mistaken.

6 thoughts on “The Myth Of The Kerry Republicans

  1. The media is clearly into overdrive in trying to drive Bush from office. They will report relentlessly against Bush between now and the election.

    The real enemy to defeat in this election is the liberal bias of the media; Kerry himself is a very weak candidate.

    No wonder why the so-called mainstream media is losing the trust of the public, and along with it their business.

    Let’s hit the liberal media where it hurts them: their pocketbook.

  2. I haven’t looked specifically at the poll data you cite, but every poll I’ve seen thus far shows Kerry mopping the floor up with Bush among independents. This is where the election will be won or lost, and there are still four months before November 2 and plenty of room for things to swing back and forth. It’s hard to say what effect the economy will have. The vast majority of employment growth has come in the form of McJobs, and regions of the country that are merely shifting the huddled masses from the unemployment lines to jobs that pay 25% less than their previous employers aren’t likely to be in the mood of rewarding Dubya no matter how “economic growth” shows up on incomprehensible charts at the Federal Reserve. Furthermore, inflation fears and rising interest rates are likely to keep the stock market relatively stagnant while simultaneously slowing the growth of new home construction, taking the hammers away from the only growth sector of the American job market paying liveable wages.

    I think I speak for the majority of Americans when I say that I was much better off at this point in 2002 and 2003. When I have to pay 40% more at the gas pumps than I did last year, I have less money at the end of the month than I used to. Given that more than 90% of Americans were employed even at the peak of the recent recession, most of us are likely to look back at 2002 as the good old days as we continue to get stiffed at the gas pumps. Of course, Bush’s quid pro quo with the Saudi Royal Family could kick in and send gas prices plummeting by fall, which would certainly help him.

    The bottom line is that a good quarter of the American electorate is still up for grabs, perhaps more. This quarter is generally guided by the “prevailing winds of the moment” when they go to the polls. This is far from over and I’m not sure it’ll be as close as what’s expected.

  3. The numbers are explicit – Republicans like Bush more than Democrats like Kerry.

    Another way to interpret those numbers would be to state that Democrats aren’t obsessively worshipping their candidate as a messiah. Let’s face it – Bush could go on Fox News and eat a baby and his approval among Republicans wouldn’t drop a point. According to you guys, he can walk on water.

  4. Damien: As they say, the plural of anecdote is not evidence.

    The polls consistantly show that Republicans are strongly behind Bush. Does that mean they love Bush? Probably not. Does that mean they agree with everything Bush does? No.

    However, given the choice between an half-conservative like Bush and an outright liberal like Kerry, especially during a time of war, voting for Kerry is a betrayal of conservative principles and values.

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