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April 27, 2005

MICKEY KAUS refers to "the semi-mysterious slump of President Bush in the polls."

I don't think it's much of a mystery, and I agree with Bush pollster Matthew Dowd that it has something to do with Terri Schiavo. ("The country's generally unhappy, and maybe they think the Terri Schiavo case is taking away from things that Congress or Washington ought to be working on.") Only it's broader than that.

The Democrats' weakness is that people worry that they're the party of Jane Fonda. They tried -- but failed miserably -- to convince people otherwise in the last election.

The Republicans' weakness is that people worry that they're the party of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. They tried, successfully, to convince people otherwise in the last election, but they're now acting in ways that are giving those fears new life. Add to this the fact that the war is going well, weakening the national security glue that holds Bush's coalition together, and a drop is natural: People who reluctantly backed Bush because Kerry was just unacceptable on national security are now seeing their worries about domestic issues as more credible.

Perhaps the Republicans think this will all be forgotten by 2006, or at least by 2008. And perhaps they're counting on the Democrats to remain so feckless on national security that it won't matter. Perhaps they'll be right, but they're certainly suffering short-term declines in the polls that hurt the President's ability to act right now. I think that if he had a 60% approval rating, or even a 53% approval rating, he'd be making more progress on Social Security reform and on his various nominations. Was it worth this damage to solidify the social-conservative base? They seem to think so, but I'm not so sure.

UPDATE: Caught a few minutes of Limbaugh as I was running errands this afternoon. He seemed to be playing defense on this issue ferociously enough to convince me that there's something to it.

Rand Simberg and Rob Huddleston, on the other hand, think this is much ado about nothing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Will Franklin says it's all about consumer sentiment