President Bush's poll
numbers do keep slipping
. Today's CNN-USA Today poll
has him at 52%. But Democrats would be foolish to get too excited by this drift downward. After all, until the crazy years of the late 1990s ratings over 50% were considered pretty good.
"If he had these kinds of numbers in October of a re-election year he'd be on his way to a smashing victory," Ari Fleischer told USA Today.
Comments like that make you hope Fleischer has a very prominent role in Bush 2004. A president can certainly win reelection with 50% approval. But if he's got a brain he'd go into election day shaking in his boots.
A better way to look at the president's difficulties is to consider just how well, relatively speaking, this first 5 months have gone. Just from the perspective of a moderate to conservative Republican you could scarcely imagine a better record Bush has put together. He's put through a big tax cut with compromises only at the margins. He's stood by tough nominees, and without exceptions gotten them through. He's had clear sailing abroad. And there is really no big domestic screw up or embarrassment you can point to coming out of the White House.
In short, you could hardly ask for better.
And still the numbers are falling.
The implication is that the product -- even packaged deftly and pushed expertly -- just isn't one that voters want to buy.
Early Clintonian incompetence at least made plausible the idea that the problem was in the delivery, that better packaging could seal the deal.