Thursday, March 16, 2006

For Whom the Poll Tolls

[[S T A N D I N G S]] * I can’t claim to be privy to what Republican honchos are thinking about their prez, as his job approval ratings sink deeper and deeper into the toilet, but they have to be apprehensive. After all, national midterm elections are coming up in November, and they traditionally spell bad news for the party of the president, whoever’s in power. And though races at all levels and in all corners of the map are not necessarily affected by a chief executive’s performance (voters do tend to take individual strengths and weaknesses into account, not just party affiliation), congressional contests are often influenced by attitudes toward the man--or someday, woman--in the Oval Office. So GOPers can’t be reassured to hear the words of Peter D. Hart, a Democratic pollster who conducted a new NBC-Wall Street Journal survey with Republican Bill McInturff, and who says that “[George W. Bush is] losing his grip on governance. It’s now a sense that we’ve seen the best that he’s going to produce as president of the United States.” Mired in scandals, blamed for failing to deliver anything like peace and stability to post-Saddam Iraq, and increasingly distrusted by the American electorate, Bush is facing what McInturff describes as a “gray and gloomy” political climate.

Certainly, the NBC-WSJ poll offers little to boost flagging morale at the White House. It shows the prez with a 37 percent job approval rating--“his lowest mark ever in the survey,” according to NBC political reporter Mark Murray--and that only 26 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction. “What’s more,” writes Murray, “58 percent believe Bush is facing a long-term setback from which he’s unlikely to improve. Twenty-six percent think he’s experiencing only a short-term setback, and 11 percent say he’s dealing with no setback at all.” Pollsters Hart and McInturff these declines in large part to dissatisfaction with the Iraq conflict (which is undoubtedly why Bush has been out making speeches lately, trying to shore up support for his “pre-emptive war.”) The NBC-WSJ survey finds that “61 percent [of respondents] disapprove of Bush’s handling of the situation. Moreover, 57 percent are less confident that the war in Iraq will come to a successful conclusion, which is a seven-point increase since December. And 61 percent say the United States should reduce the number of troops there, while just 31 percent want to maintain the current troop level.”

All of this translates into good news for Democrats, even though they don’t seem yet to have come up with a cohesive or compelling message beyond “we’ll do things differently.” A full 50 percent of respondents to the NBC-WSJ poll say they’d prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress in the future, while only 37 percent want it to continue under Republican control. This may be important, because 2006 is looking as if it might turn out to be a nationalized election, rather than a localized one. As NBC News’ “First Read” memo points out about this new poll,

[When respondents were] asked which would be more important in determining how they vote, their own representative’s position on national issues or their representative’s performance in their district, 44% said “national issues” and 40% said performance in the district. That’s a greater percentage choosing “national issues” than in October 1994 (35%). Also, 66% say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who “believes that the country needs a major change in direction.”
Much will depend, though, on whether Dems can get beyond tearing down Bush with talk of impeachment and censure, and make the case that they will be less corrupted by lobbyists, more fiscally responsible, and much more attentive to public demands that the Iraq conflict be settled (or at least internationalized) than Bush and his fellow Republicans have been, if they are put in charge again on Capitol Hill. But when even Texas native Jessica Simpson is snubbing Bush, you know that things aren’t going well for this administration.

THROW THE BUM OUT: Raw Story reports today that “A new poll finds that a plurality of Americans favor plans to censure President George W. Bush, while a surprising 42% favor moves to actually impeach the President.” Read on.

JUST A LITTLE LATE: Remarking on George W. Bush, William Rivers Pitt writes at TruthOut: “The man is deranged, disconnected, dangerous. It appears, finally, that a significant portion of the country now sees this clearly. Only 33% of Americans, according to the latest Pew poll, approve of Mr. Bush and the job he is doing. Hey, it only took five years. It has suddenly become all the rage to jump all over this administration. Pundits from every corner, including more than a few conservatives, are apparently waking up to the fact that they stapled themselves to Casey Jones's train. Hell, even right-wing avatar Peggy Noonan is saying that if she knew then what she knew now, she wouldn't have voted for Bush. Here's the kicker, though, and a good explanation for that lingering 33% support: Noonan says she wouldn't vote for Bush because he is actually a liberal. The blind leading the blind has become the deranged following the deranged. Go figure.” Read on.

READ MORE:Bush Urged to Bulk Up Inner Circle” (CNN); “Republicans Are Out of Ideas,” by Jonathan Chait (The New Republic); “What More Will It Take?” by Joseph Hughes (Hughes for America); “Snooze Alarm: The Side-Effects of Bush Fatigue,” by Bruce Reed (Slate); “Disengaged and Uninvolved: The Non-Leadership of George W. Bush,” by Michael J.W. Stickings (The Reaction); “Decline and Fall,” by Michelle Goldberg (Salon); “Another ‘New Low,’” by Mark Blumenthal (Mystery Pollster).

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