Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cumulative Impact of Negative Press

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cumulative Impact of Negative Press

Article excerpt

Now it's the new book by Bob Woodward with Hillary Rodham Clinton having imaginary conversations with Eleanor Roosevelt. No big deal here, but just another tiny drop in the drip, drip, drip of negative publicity for the Clintons in the past month.

First, there was the legal brief with the notion of the Soldiers and Sailors Act applying to the president. Then came the jury verdict in Little Rock, the report of the Senate Whitewater Committee and the mishandling of the FBI files. Finally, clinton's close adviser is named as "unindicted co-conspirator" in the new trial involving campaign fund-raising in Arkansas.

The amazing thing is that none of this has put a significant dent in Clinton's lead over Sen. Bob Dole. Last week's New York Times -CBS poll h ad Clinton leading Dole by 20 points. In the ABC-Washington Post poll, Clinton leads Dole by 20 points. In the US Today -CNN-Gallup survey, clinton leads Dole by 19 points.

Clinton is leading Dole in the South, especially in Florida, and has an overwhelming lead in California. Clinton's approval rating in the current Gallup poll is 58 percent. Since World War II, every president with better than a 54 percent Gallup approval rating in mid-June of the election year has won re-election.

Of course, the race will tighten in September and October, but why hasn't there been some narrowing of the gap based on the drum-beat level of recent negative publicity? Frankly, I can't figure it out, but here are some reasons offered by some political observers:

Americans don't focus on presidential campaigns until Labor Day.

The character issue was ventilated in the 1992 campaign and, thus, there is really nothing to change attitudes from what they have been right along.

Whitewater is simply too complicated for general comprehension.

Public cynicism about politics and politicians causes people to say, "So what else is new?" Today's politics, most people think, is all partisan mud-slinging. People tune it out. …

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