CNN released an interesting poll yesterday that, on the surface, appeared to offer bad news for incumbent officeholders, especially President Obama. A plurality of Americans believes they're worse off than they were four years ago, and only a third believes the economy is in good shape.
But the larger question is more important: who do Americans hold responsible for our ongoing challenges? I put together a simple chart to show why Republicans are discouraged by the results.
Maddow Blog chart based on CNN data
Among registered voters, the results just aren't close -- a 57% majority holds George W. Bush and Republicans "more responsible for the country's current economic problems," as compared to 35%, who blame Obama and Democrats. Among self-identified independents, the results were nearly as one sided, 53% to 37%.
In fairness, I should note that the results were a little closer among likely voters, and the percentage blaming Obama and Democrats is up slightly since last year. But by every measure, most Americans still aren't satisfied with the status quo, and most Americans still blame Bush and the GOP, not the president.
Campaigning in Iowa a few months ago, Mitt Romney said of Obama, "He's trying to find someone to blame. He tries to blame President George W. Bush; that happened so long ago, people have forgotten that." Apparently, that's not true.
To put it mildly, this matters a great deal in the 2012 presidential election.
Not only does this help explain why Obama can maintain an advantage despite a deeply frustrated electorate, but it also reinforces Romney's challenge -- he wants to stock his cabinet with Bush veterans, he's tapped Bushies to help run his campaign, he's running on a very Bush-like agenda, and even the Republican National Committee has conceded a Romney administration would effectively be the same thing as a Bush administration, "just updated."
The public's appetite for a third Bush term, however, is quite limited.
Is it any wonder so many Republicans are trying to bully Democrats into not mentioning Bush? The GOP seems to realize their fortunes rest on voters forgetting about the former president altogether.