In this morning’s Washington Post, reporters Richard Morin and Dana Milbank, analyzing the results of the paper’s latest poll, write, “In a sign that Bush has been set back by recent controversies over Iraqi weapons, his National Guard record and the federal budget, the number of Americans viewing him as a ’strong leader’ has slipped to 61 percent, down 6 points from December and the lowest level since the 2001 terrorist attacks.”
A look at the numbers inside the Post poll suggest that, at the very least, the president’s service in the Air National Guard does not belong on the list of Bush’s liabilities. When the paper asked respondents, “Do you think questions about George W. Bush’s service in the National Guard during the Vietnam War–are or are not a legitimate issue in this year’s presidential election?” 66 percent of those polled said it was not a legitimate issue. Thirty percent said it was a legitimate issue, and four percent did not know or had no opinion.
Breaking the results down by party, 56 percent of Democrats said the president’s Guard service was not a legitimate issue; 66 percent of Independents said it was not a legitimate issue; and 82 percent of Republicans said it was not a legitimate issue.
Viewing the results by region, a full 70 percent of those polled in the Midwest–an area with several key battleground states in the upcoming presidential election–said the president’s Guard service was not a legitimate issue. Sixty-seven percent of those polled in the Democratic strongholds of the East said it was not a legitimate issue, along with 64 percent in the South and 67 percent in the West.