Here’s the Harris Poll from late last week, full of good news for the president, including a 10-point lead over Kerry in likely voters. Unlike the discredited Los Angeles Times poll showing Kerry with a 7-point lead, the reputable Harris survey got very little ink.
The most interesting data from the survey is the comparison between the president’s approval rating – 50 percent – in June of his re-election year, and the approval ratings of other presidents in the June of their re-election years.
Clinton in ’96, Reagan in ’84, and Nixon in ’72, were at 55 percent, 55 percent, and 56 percent respectively. The incumbents who lost, Bush 41, Carter and Ford were at 32 percent, 26 percent and 41 percent respectively. This president is much closer to the numbers of the re-elected (twice with landslides, once comfortably) than he is to the presidents who were turned out of office.
And with an economy surging, the approval number is going up. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the “surge in the U.S. economy is beginning to produce jobs in battleground states where the 2004 fight for the presidency might be decided,” including “job growth last month in 10 of 12 states in which polls show President Bush and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic contender, locked in seesaw fights.” In some places, the growth is relatively small – Ohio picked up 1,100 jobs in May – but the direction is what matters.
A few days after Harris published its results, the Washington Post-ABC poll begged to differ. They find the president is behind John Kerry by four points in their poll of registered voters. Of course, I’d rather be leading in likely voters than registered voters, but I don’t think that explains the difference in the polls. One of them has to be broken.
I think it is the Washington Post poll. The reason? Two months ago the same poll showed respondents preferring Bush over Kerry when it came to fighting terrorism by an astounding but understandable margin of 21 percent.
This new poll shows the two tied in the public eyes when it comes to fighting terrorism.
And this after the pacification of the al Sadr revolt, the calming of Fallujah, the naming of the interim government, the U.N. resolution, the D-Day memorial, the G-8 summit, another 250,000 jobs (making nearly a million in three months) and of course, the Reagan funeral.
So we are supposed to believe the Washington Post poll? I don’t. I think it fails the laugh test, and that the Harris survey – backed by three decades of asking the same questions from serious samples – deserves your attention.
Of course, what really matters are the state-by-state breakdowns, and I send you to:
With little over five months to go, however, the news is tremendous for the president and the oxygen is running out for Kerry (with Big Billy C. taking in great big gasps of it). Kerry can clutch at outlier polls if he wants, but history and events are marching away from him and toward the re-election of W.