We've all seen it before. Bush's approval ratings sink to new lows and then voila, out comes a brand-new series of fear-mongering speeches across America where the president perpetrates his own reign of terror in an effort to scare voters into supporting his deranged foreign policy and to keep Republicans in power. It's worked like a charm in the past. But is it working again? A new NY Times/CBS News poll released this week indicates that voters may just be falling into the same terrorism sinkhole as before.
First let's start with the good stuff. The stuff which makes Democrats sleep a little easier at night:
-Just 25% of those polled approve of Congress's performance
-71% said they do not trust the government to make the right decisions
-77% said incumbents do not deserve re-election (the highest since 1994)
-48% said it's time for a new Congressperson for their own districts
-54% said Democrats will win more seats in November
-42% said Democrats will make better choices about Iraq
-50% favor Democrats on the economy
-44% trust Democrats to be more honest about Iraq
-59% said Bush was hiding something when he discusses Iraq
-25% said he's actually lying when discussing Iraq
-52% believe we will not have lost the war if we pull out of Iraq today
-Bush's approval rating is unchanged from August at 37%
So let's assess. Voters are increasingly unhappy with Bush, and disdain for Congress is at its lowest point since 1994 when Newt Gingrich and his Rethuglican Contractors for America blazed through DC in a House and Senate sweep. Looks good for the left, right? Well maybe not. Just like the above GOP doomsday scenario ultimately meant nothing in '04. Let's make no mistake: as in 2002 and '04, the single biggest X-factor here is terrorism. And there's some interesting data behind the data in this week's survey.
The Times/CBS poll found that since Bush completed his recent series of Iraq cheerleading speeches and terrorism fear-mongering, Americans are more scared than ever. The number of people who think terrorism is the #1 issue doubled to 14% from 7% in July. 22% said Iraq was the most important issue, unchanged from July. Additionally, 36% now approval of Bush's handling of the Iraq war, up from 30%. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to see what's happening here. The Busheviks are playing the Iraq/terror card more aggressively and more shamelessly than ever because, for the GOP, the stakes have never been higher. What's most terrifying about all this? They are very, very good at playing this game.
Is America falling for the same scare tactics all over again? Will the Busheviks successfully frighten voters in the polling booths in six weeks to vote Republican? At this stage in the election, that's anyone's guess. To be sure, the data at times appears contradicting as Americans, while extremely dissatisfied with the status quo, do show a propensity to put their faith and trust into the GOP when it comes to protecting the nation. But to complicate matters more, while 42% believe the Repubs are better at dealing with terrorism than Democrats (37%), the margin has shrunk considerably, suggesting that Democrats may be gaining ground on this critical issue. So clearly, when it comes to terrorism, voters seem bi-polar. Or at best, vulnerable to the Busheviks' fear-mongering yo-yo they're kept on.
Perhaps one of the most troubling indicators from the Times/CBS survey is that, while unhappy with the status quo, only 38% of voters polled said the Dems had a clear plan for how they'd run the country, as opposed to 45% for the Repubs. As such, will the midterms truly be a "referendum" on Bush and Iraq as the pundits believe, or will voters be sucked back into making their worst terrorism fears the primary lever when voting? Will they stick with the "devil they've got" instead of the one they don't know? Will the Dems somewhow create a message that truly resonates? Stay tuned.