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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bush Woes Continue

Well, DR’s back from the beach–tan, rested and ready, as they say–and he’s pleased to note that public disenchantment with Bush is continuing and intensifying.  In CBS News polling data released August 13, Bush’s approval rating was 55 percent, down 5 points from their July poll, and Bush’s approval rating on the economy was a dreadful 36 percent with 52 percent disapproval. Moreover, the poll found 60 percent of Americans saying the economy was in bad condition, with just 38 percent saying it in good shape. That’s the worst reading on this indicator since September, 1993.
And how much progress has been made on the economy? Compared to two years ago, 55 percent (60 percent of independents) think the nation’s economy is in worse shape today and 66 percent think the job market has deteriorated in that time span. No wonder that 70 percent (74 percent of independents) believe Bush should be paying more attention to the economy.
Bad, bad, bad. But of course the economy is Bush’s worst area. What of Bush’s strong suit: national security and the supposedly popular war in Iraq? Well, that war may have been mighty popular when the troops were barreling into Baghdad and Saddam’s statue was coming down, but it ain’t so popular anymore. 
According to the CBS News poll, the country is now about evenly split between those who think the results of the war were worth the costs and those who disagree. The public is also evenly split between those who think the US is in control of the Iraq situation and those who think we aren’t.
Not so good. And
 a Newsweek poll released last weekend has Bush’s approval rating on Iraq down to 54 percent, off 4 points since late July and down 11 points since the end of May. Only 18 percent are very confident the US will be able to establish a stable, democratic form of government in Iraq and just 16 percent think efforts to rebuild Iraq are going very well.
And wait, there’s more! Recent developments have raised doubts in a substantial segment of the public about whether going to war with Iraq was the right thing to do. These developments include the number of US military casualties since the end of major combat was declared, reports about the long-term cost of the occupation, and the fact that no banned chemical or biological weapons have yet been found. In each case, about half the public says the development has raised doubts about the rightness of the war. In another indicator of wavering commitment, a slight plurality (48 percent to 47 percent) in now willing to say they would support a withdrawal of US military personnel from Iraq in response to ongoing attacks on our forces.
Finally, we’re getting close to an even split about whether the Bush administration purposely misled the public to build support for the Iraq war (43 percent say they did; 51 percent say they didn’t). No wonder an August 22 Washington Post story was headlined “
Security May Not Be Safe Issue for Bush in ‘04“. It isn’t and he’s not. The Newsweek poll, in fact, finds more registered voters (49 percent) saying they would not like to see Bush re-elected than say they would like to see him get a second term (44 percent). That’s quite a turnaround from early May., when registered voters favored Bush’s re-election by 51 percent to 38 percent.
Now if the Democrats could just get their act together, we might really have a horse race here. Latest thoughts on that problem soon.