Sunday, February 29

The Plan's Not Going Well

If Bush wants to run on his record, he's in deep poop. From this morning's L.A. Times:

Domestic Troubles Challenge Bush Campaign

WASHINGTON — When President Bush's political strategists planned his reelection campaign, they hoped to woo voters with an impressive list of achievements in domestic policy: a resurgent economy, tax cuts, an education plan and a prescription drug benefit for senior citizens. It hasn't worked out that way.

To Republicans' distress, Bush has run into trouble on all those fronts. The economy's recovery has been stubbornly slow. The president's tax cuts are not universally popular. His education changes have drawn criticism from educators and state officials in both parties. And the Medicare bill has failed to impress elderly voters.

"When President Bush goes to make his case for a second term, his domestic performance will not be his strong suit," said pollster Andrew Kohut of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for People and the Press. "It's not a hopeless thing, but boy — he has some work to do to get people to feel better about what he has accomplished."

Republican strategists acknowledge that the president has not yet succeeded in making his domestic agenda an effective selling point.

"When you look at the specific concerns about the Medicare law and No Child Left Behind, they start a little bit rocky," said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, referring in part to Bush's education program. "But that's why God made campaigns."

One problem, Republicans said, is that the Bush campaign has been slow in starting in a political season that has seen the president's Democratic rivals focus their criticism on the incumbent (instead of on one another, as the GOP had hoped).

"His Democratic opponents have run more than 36,000 television ads attacking President Bush or his policies," said Scott Stanzel, a spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign. "It's time to reframe the debate."

Minnesota's Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty noted a second, more troubling problem: So far, Bush's domestic accomplishments are mostly on paper.

In a poll by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center released Feb. 9, 63% of respondents said they got little or no benefit from the tax cuts; only 33% said they derived "some" or "a great deal."