William Saletan may be remembered by some for having written a piece in Slate in which he predicted Bush Is Toast in the 2000 election. Yeah, well. Anyway, he’s written a more cautiously optimistic piece that examines what he calls “Bush’s grim numbers.”
Bush’s job approval rating has been net negative in CBS surveys since April. Over the same period, his approval rating in ABC polls peaked at 51 but has been net negative in five of seven samplings. Even in the CNN poll, Bush’s approval rating has been below 50 in four of the five surveys this year, including the latest. And in CBS surveys, the percentage of voters saying that things in the United States are on the wrong track hasn’t fallen below 51 percent all year. The percentage saying things are moving in the right direction hasn’t risen above 42 percent. In the post-convention CBS poll, 59 percent say we’re on the wrong track. Only 36 percent say we’re going in the right direction.
Given how close Kerry is to 50 percent, Bush can’t afford to let Kerry solidify his support. But that’s exactly what Kerry is doing. In ABC polls since June, the percentage of Kerry supporters saying there’s a good chance they’ll change their mind has fallen from 12 to 5 percent. That’s two points lower than the percentage of Bush supporters who say the same. In ABC’s pre-convention survey, only 72 percent of Kerry’s voters supported him strongly. In the post-convention survey, that number has risen to 85—virtually equal to Bush’s 86.
Saletan concludes with the ubiquitous note that all pollsters use as their out: “It’s Kerry’s race to lose.” I can’t blame him for being a little more cautious this time out.