BUSH’S APPROVAL RATINGS….Daniel Davies has an interesting polling observation over at Crooked Timber. It’s far too easy, he says, to cherry pick poll data based on what makes you happy, so if you’re interested in what’s really happening it’s better to discipline yourself to pick a single indicator that you think is reliable and then stick with it, regardless of whether or not it produces good news.

With that in mind, his reliable indicator of choice is George Bush’s approval rating, and he notes that it’s been going up lately. As Professor Pollkatz’s latest summary chart shows, Bush’s approval rating has spiked three times before (9/11, Iraq war, Saddam’s capture) and now appears to be rebounding for a fourth time. It’s a small rebound, but (a) it shows up in many different polls and (b) it appears to have been in progress for about two months.

It’s hard to say what’s responsible for this, but there’s not much question that it coincides with Kerry’s recent poll difficulties. The lesson, I suspect, is that the old conventional wisdom is correct: reelection campaigns are fundamentally referendums on the incumbent. To beat Bush, Kerry has to knock those approval ratings down.

How? Negative campaigning, of course. When? The sooner the better. It’s time for the closer to close.

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