Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Judge this

The new Washington Post poll shows Bush's support dropping or continuing weak on almost every issue. The one exception is on judges, where favorable/unfavorable is an even (46-44) split.

Kevin Drum believes this shows the Democrats are losing the political battle over judges – or at least, not winning it. But I don’t know. The debate over judicial nominations is just a different kind of issue than terrorism or even stem cells. It is highly-polarized and special-interest driven. Certain groups have a big stake in it – mainly conservative Christians on the right and pro-choice constituencies on the left. They know what they think and they make up a substantial portion of the population. But a broad, non-ideological swath of the public isn’t following this issue at all (10 percent have “no opinion” on it compared with 1 or 2 percent for other issues). That’s because it turns on obscure Senate rules and judicial nominees who will disappear into obscurity - or onto the bench, but from the standpoint of public awareness that's exactly the same thing.

So the even split is entirely to be expected. As long as the Bush/Rove polarization strategy is in force, there will be 40+ percent on both sides, and the issue is just not going to have a big impact on public opinion at the national/presidential level, except in mobilizing the faithful on both sides.

Of course, a Supreme Court battle is another animal entirely, and the judge issue does have many lower-level effects – in the GOP presidential nomination process, for example, or as Ed Kilgore points out, in congressional races.

By contrast, Social Security, Iraq and the economy are on everyone’s mind and cut across the red/blue divide. That Bush’s support is so weak on these is really bad news for him – especially since he seems disinclined to do anything different.