The Day Democrats Never Thought Would Come, Is Here!

That tearing sound you hear throughout the land is the rending of garments by anguished Democrats. In a day they surely never expected would arrive, Barack Obama has a worse image than George W. Bush in the just completed WSJ/NBC September poll.

Of the three Presidents tested, Bill Clinton of course remains the most popular. He has a 56{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} positive/21{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} negative rating. That’s not the key data point here. The last time 42 was below 50{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} positive was way back in December of 2008. The last time Clinton was negatively perceived was June of 2008.

No, the big news from these data is that George W. Bush, the President Democrats had planned to run against longer than Republicans ran against Jimmy Carter, has a better image than the man who was going to slow the rise of oceans, heal the planet, end a war in the Middle East, and restore our country’s image overseas.

image 1.jpg

It’s not that Bush is suddenly beloved. He has a 37{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} positive/38{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} negative image now. That’s quite a change from the 31{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-59{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} rating he received when he left office in January 2009. Bush’s negative rating did not consistently drop below 50{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} until May 2011, and did not drop below 40{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} until July of 2013 (the image ratings of the former Presidents are not asked every month).

Meanwhile, Obama’s fall from the days of Greek Columns and Brandenburg Gates (you know, back when he was good at the theater of politics) has been fast. At the time of his second inaugural just 20 months ago, Obama had a 52{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} positive/37{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} negative rating. By the next month, he had already slipped below 50{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} positive. And now, he is at 42{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} positive/46{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} negative.

So, while Bush is a net minus one on his image, Obama is a net minus four. This does not mean Republican candidates will start running on the Bush record, but it does prove that if you wait long enough in politics, you can see anything. Like many a toppled Greek column, the mighty have fallen!

Glen Bolger, a leading Republican strategist and pollster, is a partner and co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies. Martin Shull is a Senior Research Assistant at the polling firm. The data is from Wall Street Journal/NBC polls conducted by Democratic pollster Fred Yang at Hart Research Associates and Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies. Mr. Bolger is on Twitter: @posglen

Public Opinion Strategies