The Wall Street Journal has finally noticed something I have pointed out before – that while approval of Republicans is low, the public is not enamoured of the Democrats, either. But as is so common with MSM writers in New York and LA, John Harwood remains clueless to other equally vital truths. Harwood, after noting that the Democrats cannot hope to win this fall simply because the Republicans are not polling well, suggests that Republicans can win this fall if they “attack Democratic foes and separate themselves from President Bush's struggles.” In the actual fact, one course is risky and the other would be absolutely suicidal.
Harwood makes the normal mistakes so typical of people who don’t read far below the headlines from opinion poll press releases. He cites the “generic” poll which says Americans prefer Democrats to Republicans, without considering how drastically those numbers change when specific names are placed. He cites the “wrong track” polling, without realizing that the national elections do not proceed in alignment with such polling – the 2000 “right track” polling and 2004 “wrong track” polling led Democrats to think they would win the White House, but in both cases the polling proved to be disparate from the actual voter intention. So it is no surprise to me, that Harwood failed to note that while the media blasts away at President Bush’s Job Approval polling, they never stop to consider that the President continues to enjoy significantly higher polling than either party in Congress. To be blunt, the most obvious fact from the polling is that if one is a Republican running for election or re-election, they need to be linked to this President, and if one is a Democrat, they need to be careful not to contrast themselves with this President. Negative attacks on George W. Bush will back-fire on the attackers, and while this may seem counter-intuitive, it is a critical fact.
Ironically, the basic strategy to winning any of the election races is pretty straightforward. A candidate needs to know what is most important to his constituents, and address those needs, directly and repeatedly. And any candidate, whether Republican or Democrat, should be wary indeed of trusting the media – the track record of advice from New York or Los Angeles should be warning in itself.