Bush drops on nearly every issue
WASHINGTON - Republicans determined to win in November are up against a troublesome trend - growing opposition to President Bush.
An Associated Press-Ipsos poll conducted this week found the president's approval rating has dropped to 33 percent, matching his low in May. His handling of nearly every issue, from the Iraq war to foreign policy, contributed to the president's decline around the nation, even in the Republican-friendly South.
More sobering for the GOP are the number of voters who backed Bush in 2004 who are ready to vote Democratic in the fall's congressional elections - 19 percent. These one-time Bush voters are more likely to be female, self-described moderates, low- to middle-income and from the Northeast and Midwest.
Two years after giving the Republican president another term, more than half of these voters - 57 percent - disapprove of the job Bush is doing.
Control of the House
Democrats need to gain 15 seats in the House to seize control after a dozen years of Republican rule, and the party is optimistic about its chances amid diminishing support for Bush and the GOP-led Congress.
Republicans argue that elections will be decided in the 435 districts and the 33 Senate races based on local issues with the power of incumbency looming large.
"This election will be less about a political
climate that is challenging for both parties, and instead about the
actual candidates and how their policies impact voters on the local
level," said Tracey Schmitt, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman.
But fewer than 100 days before the Nov. 7 election, the AP-Ipsos poll suggested the midterms are clearly turning into a national referendum on Bush.
"I don't feel like the war was the answer," said Paula Lohler, 54, an independent from Worcester, Mass., who is inclined to vote her opposition to Bush. "It seems like it's going on and on and on and nothing's being done."
That attitude propelled anti-war challenger Ned Lamont to Tuesday's Democratic primary win over Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, a stalwart supporter of Bush on the war.
Trouble in the South
In the South, Bush's approval ratings dropped from 43 percent last month to 34 percent as the GOP advantage with Southern women disappeared.
House Republican candidates looking to oust incumbent Democrats seized on the silver lining of the AP-Ipsos poll. Many of the 1,001 adults and 871 registered voters surveyed Aug. 7-9 said they've had enough with the status quo. Only 26 percent of adults said the country was on the right track, and just 29 percent approved of the job Congress is doing.
"It's a good year to be running against an incumbent," said Republican David McSweeney, an investment banker looking to unseat first-term Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean in the Chicago suburbs.
"Approval ratings for Congress are below where the president is," said Jeff Lamberti, a Republican taking on five-term Iowa Rep. Leonard Boswell. "It's a real opportunity for a challenger."
"There's a point where people just get mad," said Perlmutter, a winner in Tuesday's primary.
On the generic question of whether voters would back the Democrat or Republican, 55 percent of registered voters chose the Democrat and 37 percent chose the Republican, a slight increase for Democrats from last month.
"I'm not too happy with Bush at the moment," said dental lab employee Chrissie Clement, 36, of Poynette, Wis. "I think he could do more for this country. We need to get somebody new in there and get a different party in charge."
Charles Taylor, 56, who works on newspaper presses and lives near Roanoke, Va., said, "I would like to see Republicans keep control of Congress. I vote Republican to support the president."
Republican consultant Kevin Spillane said August polls typically have been filled with bad news for Bush and the GOP, but they eventually turn it around in November. Still, he said, "The bottom line from the numbers is no Republican incumbent should be caught unprepared for November."
The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for adults and 3.5 percentage points for registered voters.
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