So here is a poll from Gallup that tracks George H. W. Bush’s job approval:
He was riding high after the First Persian Gulf War, wasn’t he? An approval rating in excess of 90 percent.
But less than a year later Bush’s job approval was under 50 percent. And by July of 1992, Bush was below 30 percent job approval. He became one of a handful of incumbent Presidents to lose reelection:
What happened? The Gulf War was a temporary distraction … a feel good moment:
Bush’s approval rating remained above 80% until mid-April 1991, but gradually declined over the course of the year as Americans’ attention shifted from the Persian Gulf to the struggling U.S. economy. Though the recession officially ended in March 1991, the perception among Americans that the economy was in poor shape persisted well into the next year.
I think Sununu’s situation is analogous to Bush’s. In times of crisis, Americans pull together and rally behind their political leaders. And the American people have been led to believe that Coronavirus represented a crisis of biblical proportion.
But I think Sununu may even be in a worse position than Bush was. Unlike the victory over Iraq in the First Persian Gulf War, which was real, the “victory” over Coronavirus isn’t.
As I’ve discussed in multiple prior posts, the lockdown did not “flatten the curve.” The curve was fictitious, the product of badly flawed model. Studies and papers show no difference in Coronavirus outcomes between States that locked down and those that didn’t. Virtually all the deaths attributed to Coronavirus in New Hampshire have been in nursing homes. Statistically, children are immune to Coronavirus and they appear incapable of transmitting it to adults. Coronavirus is much less deadly than the flu to people under fifty.
Despite the local “press” refusing to report any of the above, I suspect that the people will come to understand that the lockdown was not necessary to protect public health, that targeted measures such as dispersing nursing home residents, banning events in the SNHU center and other large venues, suspending public transportation would have been the proper course. I suspect that the people will also come to understand that Sununu slow-walked lifting the lockdown even after it was manifest that the lockdown was not necessary to protect public health.
The people will come to understand this because other States never locked down yet never experienced any Corona-apocalypse, and because other States are lifting their lockdowns with much greater speed than New Hampshire and are not experiencing Corona-apocalypse. The word will eventually get to New Hampshire despite WMUR’s and NHPR’s stranglehold on the news. While Abraham Lincoln probably never said it:
You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
By November, I think that there is a real chance that Sununu will not be getting anywhere near the amount of credit he is presently getting for “defeating” Coronavirus. Indeed, I think it is absolutely foreseeable that a majority of voters may blame him for overreacting and tanking the economy.
In any event, even if Sununu continues to be acclaimed as the conqueror of Coronavirus, the closer we get to November, the more Coronavirus will fade as an issue and the more the economy will rise as an issue. The economic impact of the lockdown to New Hampshire’s small business and their employees has been devastating. I have my doubts about whether these voters will support Sununu, even though his two opponents are off-the-charts left-wing extremists.
Tweeting about “TV hits” on MSNBC and CNN and tweeting selfies of yourself in your black bandana at Market Basket “Feeling super cool like a Western cowboy hero in Aisle 10” are not likely to be well-received by people who have seen a business that has been in their family for generations bankrupted, or to workers who don’t want to be dependent on government, but now have no job to return to.
Additionally, there are the voters who may not own or work for a small business deemed “non-essential,” but who care about constitutional government. These voters are appalled by Sununu’s conduct.
These blocks of voters are, I think, like the base voters Bush alienated by breaking his READ MY LIPS, NO NEW TAXES pledge. They may not vote for the Democrat, but they aren’t going to vote for Sununu.
Sununu’s calculus has always been that the Right has nowhere else to go and that whatever losses from the Right he suffers in order to maintain the center is worth it because the center is a much bigger block of votes than the Right and the key to winning New Hampshire elections. The problem for Sununu is that, after six months of severe recession, these voters … the “undeclared” … may be ready to make wholesale changes.
What Sununu has going for him that Bush did not is that his opponents … Feltes and Volinsky … are such far-left looney-tunes that they make Sununu look like a reasonable person’s only choice. Feltes and Volisky are not Bill Clinton in either style or substance.
In the end, this may be enough to garner Sununu a third term. Or maybe a “centrist” Democrat will feel like it is his or Bill Clinton moment and get into the race and make things a lot more interesting.