President Bush arrives here tomorrow for a high-dollar fundraiser benefiting eastside Republican Congressman Dave Reichert. This will be Bush’s first western stop on a cross-country fundraising jag intended to help vulnerable Congressional Republicans hold onto their seats. But while the Bush visit is sure to help Reichert’s war chest (to the tune of $500,000-plus), it’s also something of a PR gift for Democrat Darcy Burner, who’s made a sport of tying Reichert to the deeply unpopular Bush.
A recent Burner campaign poll of 500 eastside voters, conducted from May 15 - 21 and released to The Stranger early this afternoon, shows just why Burner is so eager to hang the anvil of Bush’s sinking popularity around Reichert’s neck. Finding number one:
Bush’s job performance rating has plummeted to 26% (good or excellent) versus 73% (just fair or poor) with a majority (53%) rating his job performance as poor. Bush is extremely unpopular in the district, and tying Reichert to the Bush agenda drives voters to Burner.
This finding may be why, according to the Burner campaign, Bush is ditching the White House press corps for his visit with Reichert, sending them straight on to his next stop, New Mexico, instead of bringing them here. Reichert needs the money Bush can help raise, but he doesn’t need lots of major media stories highlighting his close relationship with a president who’s that unpopular on the eastside.
Other findings from the poll show low job-approval ratings for Reichert, even lower re-elect numbers for the freshman Congressman, trouble for Reichert among independent voters (who will be key to any victory in the 8th District), and an impressive jump in name recognition for Burner, a former political unknown.
Reichert’s own job performance rating is just 39% (good or excellent versus 43% just fair or poor), for a net negative job performance rating (-4%). The Republican-controlled Congress has even worse ratings in the district (21% good/excellent, 75% just fair/poor). Together, these low ratings foreshadow a strong desire for change among Washington 8th’s voters.
Reichert’s reelect numbers fell to 33%, a drop of 1% from Lake Research Partners polling conducted in October ‘05. The remaining two thirds of the electorate would consider voting for someone else, vote to replace Reichert, or aren’t sure. This is despite the fact that he has sent 6 pieces of franked mail in the last 6 months, which has clearly buoyed his numbers and solidified his base.
Independent voters disapprove even more of the job performances of Reichert, Bush, and the Republican-controlled Congress. Among independent voters, Reichert’s job rating is weak (37% good/excellent, 43% just fair/poor). Similarly, independents are more frustrated with Congress (15% good/excellent job, 80% just fair/poor job) and President Bush (21% good/excellent job, 78% just fair/poor job) than the electorate as a whole. These voters are dissatisfied and open to someone new.
With no paid communication, Burner has raised her name recognition ID with voters from 18% to 46%. Voters respond positively to her biography as daughter of an Air Force veteran and a public school teacher who put herself through college and went on to a successful career at Microsoft. Her message of running for Congress to change the direction of the country is very compelling.
The poll was conducted by Lake Research Partners and has a margin of error of +/-4.4%.
Meanwhile, a number of protests and rallies have been scheduled to coincide with Bush’s visit. Today a group of seniors are delivering a letter to Reichert’s Mercer Island offices complaining about policies—backed by Bush and Reichert—that they say are bad for seniors. (More on this later.) Tomorrow there will be a rally at Westlake Plaza in downtown Seattle starting at 11:30 a.m. and featuring Burner, State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz, some King County councilmembers, some state legislators and, according to organizers, several hundred supporters. And also tomorrow: Some protesters will be over on the eastside, near the route that Bush’s motorcade is taking to the Reichert fundraiser in Medina, doing things that for the moment remain unclear to me.