If the last two nights of speeches at the Republican Convention have highlighted the Republican Party's most popular figures, tonight's does exactly the reverse. Vice President Dick Cheney, whom Bush jokingly referred to earlier this month as "not the prettiest face on the ticket," has a serious image problem.
"Cheney's popularity at new low" is the headline of a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll released today, showing that the vice president's favorability ratings have been steadily declining since mid-2002.
"The poll, conducted Aug. 23-25, finds 44% of Americans with a favorable view and 45% with an unfavorable view of the vice president. This is the first time that Cheney does not have a higher favorable than unfavorable rating in a Gallup Poll. Until this year, Cheney's favorable ratings had always been above 50% since he took office in January 2001."
The results also show a high correlation between the political affiliation of those surveyed and their opinions of Cheney: "Republican and Democratic ratings of the vice president are precise mirror images of each other -- 79% of Republicans rate him favorably and 79% of Democrats rate him unfavorably. Independents are generally more negatively (51% unfavorable rating) than positively (36% favorable rating) disposed toward Cheney."
While these numbers look pretty bad on their own, next to John Edwards' numbers, they look even worse. "The public rates Edwards more favorably than Cheney -- 52% of Americans have a favorable opinion of the Democratic vice presidential candidate, slightly higher than Cheney's 44%. But Edwards' unfavorable rating of 28% is substantially lower than Cheney's 45%. Put differently, Edwards has a net favorable rating of +24, compared with Cheney's 1.
"A hypothetical matchup between Cheney and Edwards for the vice presidency underscores Edwards' more positive image. Fifty-two percent of registered voters say they would choose Edwards if they could vote separately for vice president, while 42% would pick Cheney. Responses are predictably partisan -- as Democrats overwhelmingly support Edwards and Republicans Cheney -- with independents tilting more toward Edwards."
At the moment it looks like Cheney's succeeding in bringing "weight" to the Republican ticket -- of the dead sort.