Grading on a Curve

Famously, Peggy Noonan — and most of the rest of the right-wing commentariat — was disappointed with President Bush’s performance on Meet the Press Sunday.


But what about the rest of the nation? Read:

President Bush, fresh off an hourlong interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, finds his political fortunes rebounding in a USA Today-CNN-Gallup Poll taken over the weekend.

Most of the poll was conducted before his TV appearance Sunday. But the survey still had Bush’s job approval climbing back from his all-time low of 49 percent one week ago to 52 percent now.

And if the election were held today, Bush and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts would be in a statistical tossup among likely voters. The poll had Bush at 49 percent and Kerry at 48 percent, which is within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

One week ago, Kerry led Bush 53 to 46 percent, suggesting that the 2004 race is still volatile.

First off, just pretend you didn’t read the last two grafs. General election polling conducted before late summer or early fall is notoriously unreliable. (So why’d I include it? So I could sound smart by telling you to ignore what I just told you to read. Well, that’s what the pros do, and they sound smart — right?)


I saw the usual clips of Bush & Russert, and Bush came off OK. He “sounded” better in print, as he usually does in these things.

If the polls really have moved in Bush’s direction, it’s probably because, after four years of getting to know the guy, the public is willing to grade him on a pretty gentle curve in these interviews. “If he doesn’t embarrass himself (or us) too badly, then he gets a pass,” seems to be the conventional wisdom.

On that curve, Bush probably earned a solid B, rather than the Gentleman’s B we’d have given to a smoother politician.

Good enough for reelection? We’ll see.


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