Pat Williams, from the Center for the Rocky Mountain West, had an interesting article in Casper Star Tribune last Sunday entitled “Buyer’s Remorse for Bush.” It is a great title even if you are like me and never “bought” Bush in the first place. As I discussed in an earlier post, Bush’s approval ratings in the West are at an all-time low and dropping with each new poll. There are only three states, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming, where he still has over 50% approval. Even in those states, support is eroding.
Williams points out that disenchantment with Bush among Westerners begins with the issues. As Westerners, we cherish our independence and government intrusion into our lives doesn’t sit well. Wiretaps without warrants and other sorts of unauthorized snooping via the Patriot Act arouse our suspicion. When Larry Craig and “Butch” Otter split with the administration on these issues, you know the President has misread Western voters. And, perhaps most importantly, Westerners disapprove of Bush’s policies that directly impact the West like his energy policy and his attempts to sell off public lands.
The loss of support for Bush runs deeper than positions on specific issues, however. My dad used to describe a certain kind of man as a “drugstore cowboy.” He tried to act the part, wear the uniform, but you could tell he was a phony. I think Westerners have finally figured out that Bush is a drugstore cowboy. They realize he is acting the role without having the character to live it. They watched as he came to Idaho and was completely insulated by his handlers. Audiences were carefully chosen, questions pre-arranged and all talking points were memorized. They watched as he bungled the war in Iraq and the response to Katrina. They hear the bluster, watch the swagger, listen to the lies, hear the excuses, note the refusal to accept responsibility, and realize that, like a drugstore cowboy, Bush is not the “real deal.” It is all about character and Bush doesn’t have it.
This means that Bush has a real problem here in the West. Westerns are loyal but once they have you pegged as a phony, it is pretty much all over. Poll numbers may not drop below 50% approval in Idaho, Wyoming and Utah, but they are unlikely to get much higher over the next three years regardless of the speeches and talking points.
UPDATE—- The latest Survey USA poll shows that Bush’s approval rating in Idaho has dropped from 55% in February to just 50% today. Bush’s weighted average approval rating for all 50 states is a dismal 36%. With a net approval rating of 3% (50% approval -47% disapproval) Idaho now ranks 4th highest, below Utah, Wyoming and Alabama.