Slidin' Down The Poll
Republicans are getting worried about the poor showing of George Warmonger Bush. They just don't want to admit it.
Recent polls show that Bush continued to decline in his approval numbers, and Iraq is only one of the issues.
An ABC News and Money magazine poll released Sunday showed that a majority of those surveyed, 63 percent, rated the economy as “not so good” or “poor.” Only 37 percent said the economy was “good” or “excellent.”
A NBC News and Wall Street Journal survey earlier this month showed that 53 percent of those surveyed disapproved of Bush’s handling of the economy while 41 percent approved.
But perhaps most alarming for Republicans, a Time/CNN poll
conducted May 12 and 13 showed that respondents favored Democrats over Republicans on a generic congressional ballot by a margin of 13 points, 53 to 40 percent.
The polling trends have spurred the Republican leadership to undertake a concerted effort to move public attention away from the public-relations setbacks in Iraq to the things that are going well there and here at home.
Only things fon't seem to be going well at home:
One lawmaker lectures a second about the need for sacrifice in time of war. A third accuses still others of preening for television cameras rather than working on Iraq. And that's just the Republicans, scuffling out of the Capitol for a 10-day break, legislative accomplishments hard to come by and their own election-year poll ratings in a slump that rivals President Bush's.
There are several months left for Republicans to enact more of their legislative agenda, and there were indications this week that gridlock may yield to progress on some.
Senate Democrats reached a compromise with the White House to allow confirmation of 25 of the president's judicial nominees, and they agreed to allow formal House-Senate compromise talks on a highway bill.
But Democratic maneuvering is only one of the obstacles confronting the GOP.
The highway bill, which would send money and construction jobs to every corner of the country, has been stalled for months in a three-cornered dispute. The GOP-controlled Senate wants to spend more money than the GOP-controlled House, which wants to spend more than the Republican White House says it will tolerate in an era of record deficits.
The dispute peaked several weeks ago, when House Speaker Dennis Hastert said angrily in a meeting attended by Bush that he felt he'd been suckered by presidential aides.
The prospects for a federal budget are more muddied. After long delay, GOP leaders in the two houses reached agreement on a tax and spending plan this week and the House passed it on a near partyline vote. But action was put off in the Senate, where Republican leaders lack the votes to prevail. Four GOP rebels are balking at the prospect of large new deficit-swelling tax cuts, particularly given the growing cost of a war in Iraq that already has consumed $121 billion.
One of the four, Sen. John McCain, criticized fellow Republicans pointedly. "Throughout our history, wartime has been a time of sacrifice. ... What have we sacrificed?" said the Arizona Republican. "I don't remember ever in the history of warfare when we cut taxes."
If taxes sparked one internal GOP clash, the war in Iraq and prisoner abuse by American military personnel prompted another.
With the Senate Armed Services Committee pushing deeper into the issue, the chairman of the counterpart House panel fumed. It "disserves the military operation" in Iraq to summon commanders to testify, said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. "I think the Senate has become mesmerized by cameras and I think that's sad."
Sen. John Warner, the Virginia Republican who chairs the Senate panel, did not respond directly. As courtly as Hunter can be fiery, Warner noted instead that the Constitution made the Congress a "co-equal branch of government" with powers of its own.
The sniping occurs against a backdrop of slumping polls for the majority Republicans in Congress and for the president. A recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll showed Bush's approval rating has fallen to 46 percent, and all surveys show him in a tight race with Democratic Sen. John Kerry. In an AP-Ipsos poll earlier this month, 50 percent of those surveyed said they would like to have Democrats in control of Congress. Forty-one percent said Republicans.
Even GOP-leaning CIA-agent-identity leaker Robert Novak admits to problems:
The conventional wisdom portrays the latest Zogby Poll's 81 percent of Republican voters committed to Bush as reflecting extraordinary loyalty to the president by the GOP base. Actually, when nearly one out of five Republicans cannot flatly say they support Bush, that could spell defeat in a closely contested election. When Devine is among the one out of five, it signifies that the president's record does not please all conservatives.
Why would Devine stay seated at the dinner when everybody else was standing and clapping? To begin with, he shares concern with many Republicans about what the United States is doing in Iraq and where it is going. Businessmen I have talked to recently exercise limited patience in how long they will tolerate the bloodshed and confusion.
What most bothers Devine and other conservatives is steady growth of government under this Republican president. If Devine's purpose in devoting his life to politics was to limit government's reach, he feels betrayed that Bush has outstripped his liberal predecessors in domestic spending. A study by Brian Riedl for the conservative Heritage Foundation last December showed government spending had exceeded $20,000 per household for the first time since World War II. Riedl called it a ''colossal expansion of the federal government since 1998.'' Curbing this expansion surely has not been on the top of Bush's agenda for much of his time in the White House.
Bush's saving grace for the 2004 election may be John Kerry. In the end, I am sure Devine will cast his ballot for George W. Bush. How many of the rest of that 19 percent of non-Bush voting Republicans in the Zogby Poll will fall in line may determine the outcome Nov. 2. That is the importance of Devine's little sit-down strike.
Just as Republicans crow about John F. Kerry's troubles with public acceptance, so it goes for George Warmonger Bush.
A party divided against itself shouldn't throw stones.