Intern Duffy Weighs in on Rove

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Close observers of this space may have noticed that we’re a little short-handed in the Swamp this week. And judging from some of the comments that have been getting past the content filter, the High Sheriffs are all passed-out drunk again. So with no one to stop me, I have hired Assistant Managing Editor and best-selling author Michael Duffy* as my Swampland intern. Here’s his first post:

Karl Rove’s repeated comments about Hillary Clinton’s negative ratings last
weekend reminded me of the thief who, as he is running out of the bank with
the cash in his pockets, helpfully tells the cops that the bad guys are
still inside.

Rove was, among other things, trying to change the subject as he tiptoed
away from the president and his party as the GOP gatored aimlessly in one of
its lowest tides in 25 years. And the tactic worked pretty well; suddenly, a
lot of people were talking about HRC’s negatives again– even HRC herself.
But Sen. Clinton surely knew what Rove was up to when she said that Rove
seemed a little “obsessed” with her: he was trying to create a diversion and
rally the party faithful who, however textured their feelings about Karl and
his mixed legacy, agree that Clinton is the devil incarnate.

(That base building thing works both ways: in the middle of a primary race,
it’s better for Clinton if it’s Rove who is pointing up her weaknesses than,
say, Barack Obama.)

As for those negatives, well, they are indeed bad, in the high 40s, but that
doesn’t yet mean she is doomed. George W. Bush’s negatives in October 2004
came in between 44 (NBC/WSJ) and 47 percent (Gallup) and they didn’t stop
him from re-election. Bill Clinton’s negatives were 44 percent (Gallup) near
election day in 1996 (Dole’s were three points higher). And Clinton’s
negatives in 1992 reached 49 percent when the voting began (Bush’s father’s
were almost ten points above that).

Gallup has an interesting assessment out this morning which notes a lot of
this and then goes further and shows how a number of candidates from both
parties have actually improved their approval ratings over the course of a
campaign, often lowering their negatives between five and ten points. You
can read it here.

* As I type this, “The Preacher and the Presidents” is at #139 on Amazon. Go, team!