Monday, February 07, 2005

Josh Marshall says it; Atrios quotes it approvingly:

It is not just that Social Security phase-out is proving unpopular in some states where President Bush is popular. It's turning out to be most unpopular in some of the reddest parts of the country. Alabama is a good example. Montana is another. Or Rep. Virgil Goode (R) in Southside Virginia. And they're not the only ones.

This isn't particularly surprising when you think about it. These are areas are often older, more rural and have more voters with lower incomes. These are states where President Bush has campaigned on a pseudo-populism which is belied by his own economic policies.

Phase-out is bringing the contradiction to the surface.


And yet ...

Here's Bush, campaigning for his Social Security plan in Montana, as reported in yesterday's New York Times:

More than 4,000 people went to hear Mr. Bush speak on Thursday, and many others wanted to but could not get in. Cheers rocked the convention hall as he described the war against terror and his commitment to national security. They also cheered his jokes, his declaration that he was thrilled to be in a place where there were more cowboy hats than ties. It was, politicians in both parties said, a powerful performance.

... Senator Conrad Burns, a Republican, gave Mr. Bush a warm and rousing introduction on Thursday as "a bold leader" and a "man who earned his spurs." ...

Yes, the Times also notes that

the front page of The Great Falls Tribune that greeted Mr. Bush on Thursday with the headline "Bush Arrives with Bold Plan" also included a statewide poll conducted for the paper, that declared, "Montanans oppose switching to personal Social Security investment accounts by a nearly 2-to-1 margin."

But is there a possible tipping point -- a point at which the cult of personality takes over and public opinion shifts just because Bush loves freedom and hates gay marriage and talks in a twang, all of which convinces a lot of people that anything he's monomaniacal about (cf. Iraq in '02) must be exactly the way he describes it?

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