Where We Go From Here
The survey also provided bad news for Democratic leaders, who are judged as offering Bush only tepid opposition. Slightly more than half of those surveyed expressed dissatisfaction with the failure of congressional Democrats to oppose Bush more aggressively.
--Results from today’s ABC News/Washington Post poll
Another week, another bad poll for Bush. This week, the ABC News/Washington Post poll out this afternoon taken through Sunday night, shows Bush’s lowest-ever approval rating of 45% and highest-ever disapproval rating of 53%. Certainly, Bush will get a slight bump in the polls as a result of his play-acting as crisis manager-in-chief, as he does whenever he doesn’t have to talk about Iraq or Social Security. But where do things stand on a variety of issues as we head into the Fall of 2005 and towards what may be the most important midterm election in recent history?
Iraq: The White House, after saying that the constitution was fine Sunday night, now wants it changed again to bring the Sunnis aboard, especially since the Sunnis have been persuaded to take up arms against Zarqawi today, a good development. Yet as Juan Cole noted late today, there is apprehension at seeing the United States continue to take an active role in meeting Sunni concern on the charter, presumably at the risk of angering the Kurds and Shiites. Again, the overall goal is to get a charter in place so that the next step of a new national assembly can occur and our forces can be drawn down, no matter what plans Rummy has for forward bases and going after Iran. Regardless, it is not likely that Bush will milk Iraq much more for any improvement in his fortunes given what lies ahead and his falling approval ratings for handling the war and occupation. And the Democrats could benefit from this mess if they had a clue themselves what to do about it, or if they had the guts to call for a pullout after the constitutional vote in October.
Social Security: Yes, the GOP will try to sneak it through this fall, and yes, the Democrats will hopefully be ready for it. Even if they aren’t, even making the move to use late-night gimmicks and power plays to push through a privatization of Social Security will be poisonous for GOP incumbents next year, as it already has for Bush’s approval ratings on the subject.
Education: Bush’s advantage on this issue is now gone, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal today, wherein even a senior White House official (read Rove) says that Democrats have regained their edge on the issue.
Health Care: Look for no new initiatives from Bush on this issue to deal with the uninsured between now and the 2006 elections, at a time when his own party is looking to cut billions from Medicaid to pay for his upper income tax cuts and Iraq. Bush is left with imploring the children of seniors to talk their parents into signing up for the Medicare drug benefit, which is already unpopular with seniors.
Gas and Energy: Bush actually said yesterday that he and his administration had a plan. Yet according to the above-referenced ABC News/WaPo poll, Bush’s approval rating on dealing with gas prices is only 22%, with a whopping 73% disapproving, meaning that hanging the Social Security and gas price albatross around Bush’s neck and that of GOP incumbents is a winning play for Democrats.
2006 and Beyond: The ABC News/WaPo poll shows that the public wants the Democrats to oppose Bush on the Iraq war and his policies in general, but so far there is little indication of any backbone on the part of the Beltway Democrats to do so. Yet the Democrats may do better than expected in the midterms, if only because they have better than 50-50 odds of taking back three GOP Senate seats. With Paul Hackett probably running against Mike DeWine in Ohio, Claire McCaskill running against Jim (no)Talent in Missouri, Bob Casey, Jr. running against Little Ricky Santorum in Pennsylvania, and with a possible pick-up in Montana and the GOP killing each other off in Rhode Island, the Dems stand to grab 4-5 seats, raising their number up from its current 44. We have to defend Minnesota, Maryland, and West Virginia, but Byrd will probably pull through in the latter, and as Chris Bowers notes, things look good for us elsewhere. Plus, things only get worse for the GOP in the 2008 and 2010 races in their efforts to hold the Senate as they then have more seats to defend. In short, the Democrats are on their way back to retaking the Senate. As for the House, Jesse Lee over at the Stakeholder blog of the DCCC notes that the Democrats are going after the GOP committee chairmen and recruiting good candidates, especially Iraq war veterans, to go after GOP incumbents next year in an environment that may be nasty for Bush and his sycophants.