The Twenty-Second Amendment Notwithstanding
I guess we shouldn’t be surprised to see some new polling place President Obama in a close head-to-head match-up with former President George W. Bush. It is an inevitable manifestation of the slide in public approval that presidents typically experience during their first year in office, when the rhetoric of campaigning hits the reality of governing. This particular poll, conducted by the firm Public Policy Polling, shows President Obama holding only a six point preference advantage over President Bush (50-44 percent). Public Policy Polling uses interactive voice response, the survey research equivalent of robo-calling, but the firm is affiliated with the Democratic Party and has been reasonably accurate in the past.
I find these kinds of hypothetical match-ups between presidents to be both fascinating and annoying at the same time. At a minimum, the current poll results speak to the ongoing polarization in our political culture, in which the country is split almost down the middle. But this particular type of hypothetical match-up also often evokes a grass is always greener reaction from survey respondents, one which underscores our collective tendency to idealize our own political history into a broadly acceptable narrative. Political observers (including me) have long expected President Bush to benefit from this process of revision, even with historically low approval ratings at the end of his second term. Imagine if they had included President Clinton in the match-ups.
Note: I will be back posting on Monday, December 14th. See you soon. -Dean

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