Mon, Feb 23, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Disenchanted Bush supporters consider voting Democratic


In the 2000 presidential election, Bill Flanagan, a semiretired newspaper worker, happily voted for George W. Bush. But now, shaking his head, he vows, "Never again."

"The combination of lies and boys' coming home in body bags is just too awful," Flanagan said, drinking coffee and reading newspapers at the local mall. "I could vote for Kerry. I could vote for any Democrat unless he's a real dummy."

Flanagan is hardly alone, even though polls show that an overwhelming majority of Republicans who supported Bush in 2000 will do so again in November. In dozens of random interviews around the country, independents and Republicans who say they voted for Bush in 2000 now say they intend to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate this year. Some polls are beginning to bolster the idea of those kind of stirrings among Republicans and independents.

That could change, of course, once the Bush campaign begins pumping millions of dollars into advertising and making the case for his re-election.

But even as Democratic and Republican strategists and poll-sters warned that a shift could be transitory, they also said it could prove to be extraordinarily consequential in a year when each side is focused on turning out its most loyal voters.

In the interviews, many of those potential "crossover" voters said they supported the invasion of Iraq but had come to see the continuing involvement there as too costly and without clear objectives.

Many also said they believed that the Bush administration had not been honest about its reasons for invading Iraq and were concerned about the failure to find unconventional weapons. Some of these people described themselves as fiscal conservatives who were alarmed by deficit spending, combined with job losses at home. Many are shocked to find themselves switching sides.

While sharing a sandwich at the stylish Beachwood Mall in this Cleveland suburb, one older couple -- a judge and a teacher -- reluctantly divulged their secret: though they are stalwarts in the local Republican Party, they are planning to vote Democratic this year.

"I feel like a complete traitor, and if you'd asked me four months ago, the answer would have been different," said the judge, after assurances of anonymity. "But we are really disgusted. It's the lies, the war, the economy. We have very good friends who are staunch Republicans, who don't even want to hear the name George Bush anymore."

A nationwide CBS News poll released on Feb. 16 found that 11 percent of people who voted for Bush in 2000 now say they will vote for the Democratic candidate this fall. But there was some falloff among those who voted against him as well. Five percent of people who said they voted for Gore in 2000 say this time they will back Bush.

On individual issues, the poll found some discontent among Republicans but substantial discontent among independents.

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