Some eyebrows went up last week when a Zogby poll indicated that President Bush's public approval rating had dipped to under 74 percent. In fact, the same poll could also be read to indicate that Bush's numbers remain above 90 percent. Not to be clintonesque, but it all depends on the meaning of "fair."
The Zogby poll, conducted between January 31 and February 2, asked 1,076 registered voters nationwide: "Overall, how would you rate President Bush's performance on the job?" In response, 43.5 rated it "Excellent," 30.1 rated it "Good," and 19.2 percent rated Bush "Fair. Only six percent rated Bush as "Poor."
"Zogby included that 19 percent on the poor side, which explains the dip to 73 percent in job performance," says a Washington-based Republican pollster. "Fair could mean many things and can be interpreted many ways. It isn't a word many pollsters would want to use in this kind of situation. I'd lump it with the good ratings, but that's just me."
More telling, says the pollster, are the results from another Zogby question in the same survey: "If after two years the war against terrorism has been won but the economy is bordering on a recession, would you judge President George W. Bush's performance in office as excellent, good, fair or poor? The response: Excellent 23.4; Good 35.8; Fair 19.9; Poor 14.3; Not Sure 6.6."
Compared to the numbers in the first question, those in the second, says the pollster, "are a little higher for 'Poor,' which indicates to me that the voters understood 'Fair' to mean something more positive than Zogby led the media to believe. If they didn't, then with such a large sampling, I'd expect the Fair and Poor numbers to be close in both questions. They aren't. Fair is fair. And in this survey it is more than fair. It's good."
DICKIE COMES FIRST
Republican Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott has angered the White House for refusing to get into the middle of some family business. Lott's brother-in-law is trial lawyer par excellence Dickie Scruggs, who organized many of the state-backed class action lawsuits against tobacco companies, and who is currently doing the same with HMO's.
The White House asked Lott for help in determining just how far-reaching the lawsuits were going to be. Lott declined to go along, believing the White House was pumping him for information that would end up in the hands of HMO lobbyists in Washington hoping for some inside information.
"It just wasn't going to be helpful to anyone," says a Lott staffer about his boss's unwillingness to cooperate. "You know it would have come out the White House was looking for inside information and then leaking it. Heck, I'm telling you about it now. They may be mad about it now, but they will thank us for it later."
STILL HOUSE HUNTING
Former President Bill Clinton isn't interested in helping many of the senators who stood by his side during impeachment. Instead, he's thrown his lot in with the House -- as part of his legacy project. "He's going to fundraise for Democrats in the House big time," says a current Clinton aide. "He wants credit for winning back the House for Democrats. That's his plan."
Clinton has already agreed to "host" fundraisers in New York, California, and Texas for the DNC. The events will be to raise the visibility of current and possibly future House candidates. "All we have to pay are his traveling expenses," says a seemingly relieved DNC advance person. "We're getting him cheap."
When asked if such longtime Democratic warriors as Dick Gephardt would be willing to cede credit to Clinton for winning back the House, one Gephardt aide laughed: "We'll give anyone credit as long as Mr. Gephardt is snatching that Speaker's gavel out of Hastert's hands next January."