Newsweek Poll Gives GOP More Bad News
The only way to get your arms fully around the damage that the Foley cover-up has done to the GOP is to read polls. Now I know that you cannot draw solid conclusions from polls taken a month before the election, nor can you assume that the Democrats will stay in a commanding position for the next 30 days when the NRCC is set to spend nearly $8 million to defend GOP seats by sliming their Democratic challengers across the country. (Note that the GOP is being forced to spend that money playing defense.) It's clear that the NRCC has nothing left in the arsenal to run on except the usual Rovian politics of destruction, which isn’t a ringing endorsement for continued GOP control. It's also clear from the polls how far into a hole the GOP has fallen due to the Foley cover-up, and how much ground they need to make up to avoid a total meltdown next month.
Case in point is the latest Newsweek poll, taken this week while the Foley cover-up clown show was in full force. The poll shows a total collapse in support for the GOP on all issues, including the war on terror, and signals that Democrats have a 12-point edge in the generic ballot next month, amongst likely voters, not just registered voters. That my friends is a lethal finding for the GOP.
For the first time since 2001, the NEWSWEEK poll shows that more Americans trust the Democrats than the GOP on moral values and the war on terror. Fully 53 percent of Americans want the Democrats to win control of Congress next month, including 10 percent of Republicans, compared to just 35 percent who want the GOP to retain power. If the election were held today, 51 percent of likely voters would vote for the Democrat in their district versus 39 percent who would vote for the Republican. And while the race is closer among male voters (46 percent for the Democrats vs. 42 percent for the Republicans), the Democrats lead among women voters 56 to 34 percent.
Yes, thanks to Denny Hastert’s cover-up, the GOP has lost the soccer moms. And the congressional GOP weren’t the only losers in the aftermath of the Foley cover-up: the Enabler-in-Chief also took a political bullet this week as well as the whole party, especially on the issue of their credibility.
Meanwhile, the president’s approval rating has fallen to a new all-time low for the Newsweek poll: 33 percent, down from an already anemic 36 percent in August. Only 25 percent of Americans are satisfied with the direction of the country, while 67 percent say they are not.
The scandal’s more significant impact seems to be a widening of the yawning credibility gap developing between the President, his party and the nation. While 52 percent of Americans believe Hastert was aware of Foley’s actions and tried to cover them up, it’s part of a larger loss of faith in Republican leadership, thanks mostly to the war in Iraq. For instance, for the first time in the NEWSWEEK poll, a majority of Americans now believe the Bush administration knowingly misled the American people in building its case for war against Saddam Hussein: 58 percent vs. 36 percent who believe it didn’t. And pessimism over Iraq is at record highs on every score: nearly two in three Americans, 64 percent, believe the United States is losing ground there; 66 percent say the war has not made America safer from terrorism (just 29 percent believe it has); and 53 percent believe it was a mistake to go to war at all, again the first time the NEWSWEEK poll has registered a majority in that camp.
That’s right; nearly 6 in 10 think Bush lied his way into Iraq, and a majority says the war was a mistake. Against this backdrop, voters now prefer the Democrats on all issues, including the war on terror.
Democrats now outdistance Republicans on every single issue that could decide voters’ choices come Nov. 7. In addition to winning—for the first time in the NEWSWEEK poll—on the question of which party is more trusted to fight the war on terror (44 to 37 percent) and moral values (42 percent to 36 percent), the Democrats now inspire more trust than the GOP on handling Iraq (47 to 34); the economy (53 to 31); health care (57 to 24); federal spending and the deficit (53 to 29); gas and oil prices (56 to 23); and immigration (43 to 34).
And these numbers assume things on the Foley cover-up front stay the way they are now, yet there are indications that it may still get worse. A second GOP congressional source now says that both Hastert and his chief of staff Scott Palmer are lying about when they first knew of Foley’s behavior and messages and did something about it. The newest information is that Palmer, whose credibility is gone forever now, actually met with Foley as far back as 2003 to confront him about his behavior, which means that Denny Hastert sat on this information for not one, but two election cycles and did nothing about Foley. There is virtually no chance that Palmer didn’t tell Hastert about this three years ago. On Iraq, the New York Times reports today that the White House was blindsided by Senator John Warner’s warning Thursday that a change of course in Bush’s policy may be necessary.
On top of all this, Adam Nagourney also reported today that the Foley cover-up fallout has put at least five more GOP seats in play, including the two California seats I predicted earlier this week, Richard Pombo’s and the aptly-named John Doolittle’s. Nagourney’s piece indicates that the Foley matter has caused GOP strategists to question whether religious conservatives will supply the necessary energy between now and the election to keep the losses to a minimum, meaning that the slime the NRCC is about to spread over Democratic challengers may have a limited impact. Plus, the White House has noted with concern that Bush’s effort to smear Democrats on national security isn’t registering against the backdrop of the Foley cover-up.
As I said earlier in the week, the GOP is the Dead Party Walking.