One reason Bush won in November is that the public wasn’t quite sick enough yet of the Iraq war. If they had been sick enough of the mess in Iraq it wouldn’t have mattered that Kerry’s plan for Iraq wasn’t particularly clear or convincing. Enough voters would have gone for Kerry simply because they wanted a change–any change–from Bush’s course in Iraq.
Moving forward, however, it remains a distinct possibility that voters will get fed up enough with Iraq that the political damage will not be not containable. Consider these data from the latest Washington Post/ABC News, as summarized by ABC News polling director, Gary Langer (note that these data were collected before the bombing of a US military mess hall in Mosul):
Fifty-six percent, a new high, now say the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, and fewer than half think the United States is making significant progress restoring civil order there. Most call Iraq unready for the election scheduled for late next month, doubt the integrity of the election process and lack confidence it’ll produce a stable government.
There are political implications: Fifty-seven percent disapprove of President Bush’s work on the situation, a point shy of his worst rating on Iraq, set during the Abu Ghraib scandal last spring. His approval for handling terrorism overall — his best issue — has dropped to 53 percent, near its low of 50 percent in June.
….Most broadly, this ABC News/Washington Post poll shows no second honeymoon for Bush after his re-election last month. The nation is as divided as ever, with Americans split, 48 percent to 49 percent, on his overall job performance — about where it’s been for most of 2004. Bush has 55 percent job approval in the “red” states he won — compared with 40 percent, 15 points lower, in the “blue” states won by Democrat John Kerry.
Comparisons to past year-end polls underscore the difficulties confronting Bush in his second term. His job approval rating is 11 points lower than a year ago, and 18 points lower than two years ago. His rating on terrorism is 17 points lower than at this time last year. There’s been a 17-point drop in the number of Americans who say the Iraq war was worth fighting, and a 10-point rise in the number who call U.S. casualties “unacceptable.”
That’s the situation now. And it seems only likely to get worse. Bush isn’t out of the woods yet on Iraq–not by a long shot.