Commentary Magazine


Cheney Is More Popular Than Pelosi

Really, he is! The new Gallup poll shows 37% of voters view him favorably (up from 30% and rising from 21 to 37% among Independents). Pelosi has been tanking, going from a 42-41% favorable/unfavorable split to 34-50%. It seems to have something to do with all that news coverage:

That coverage appears to have helped Cheney — at least modestly — in the image department. Given Americans’ concern about closing Guantanamo Bay, his improved ratings since March are arguably related to his ongoing outspokenness on waterboarding, tying it in with U.S. national security.

Pelosi has had a major, high profile role in the legislative agenda of Congress all year, most notably with passage of Obama’s economic stimulus package in January; however the recent controversy over her possible knowledge of waterboarding — and her claim that the CIA misled Congress about briefing her — may have more to do with her depressed favorable ratings, which are down eight points since November.

Perhaps the Democrats should rethink the strategy of making Pelosi the poster gal for the 2010 races.

Aside from electoral politics, maybe conservatives should learn not to avoid confronting the president’s policies when they are misguided or founded on misstatements of fact. Perhaps popularity follows a successful argument on the merits. Cheney has helped move public opinion on the merits of the argument he is making, and as a byproduct has gotten some kudos. But popularity was not a requirement to succeed on the substantive policy debate.

It is a lesson worth learning: matching the president’s glitz may be impossible; combating his misguided policies is not. It might even earn the protagonist some brownie points with the public. Healthcare anyone? Bailouts? The field is wide open.