Correction to This Article
A May 11 article about the erosion of conservative support for President Bush and the Republican Congress cited a Gallup poll but failed to note that the survey was done with USA Today.
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Bush, GOP Congress Losing Core Supporters

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Moreover, the public's view of the economy and Washington may have been soured by gasoline prices having topped $3 a gallon over the past month.

But GOP lawmakers and strategists, who have reviewed a series of polls released in recent weeks, said the results confirm what they are hearing from voters: Conservatives are demoralized and defecting in worrisome numbers. The most recent Associated Press poll found that Bush had a 52 percent approval rating among conservatives; only 33 percent had a favorable opinion of the Republican-run Congress.

"The problem in my mind, and the only way to explain the very significant erosion is just a disgust with what appears to be a complete abandonment of limited government," said former Republican congressman Pat Toomey, who runs the conservative Club for Growth. Toomey said commitment to smaller government has been the unifying idea for most elements of the GOP coalition since Ronald Reagan's presidency. "Republicans have finally had enough," he said, a sentiment echoed by several other conservative activists and lawmakers.

Since Bush took office, government spending has increased by more than 25 percent, the largest increase under any president since Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson. At the same time, Bush and the Republican Congress dramatically increased the government's role in, and overall spending on, education and Medicare by enacting the No Child Left Behind Act and new prescription drug entitlement for seniors. David A. Keene, head of the American Conservative Union, said there is a sense of flaccid leadership at the White House and in Congress that begets "things like frustration, which leads to disgust and apathy" among conservatives.

The immigration debate appears to be damaging Bush and GOP lawmakers, too. Conservative voters are saying they want swift congressional action to secure the border and enforce immigrations laws, but Bush and Congress are split over the best way to deal with illegal immigrants already in the country.

A new Zogby Interactive poll found that fewer than 25 percent of respondents who described themselves as conservative or very conservative approved of Bush's handling of the immigration debate. "Unfortunately, when it comes to controlling our borders, we are about a decade behind where we need to be," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.).

Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, and GOP leaders are well aware of the problem and are planning a summer offensive to win back conservatives with a mix of policy fights and warnings of how a Democratic Congress would govern. The plan includes votes on tax cuts, a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, new abortion restrictions, and measures to restrain government spending.

Assistant polling director Claudia Deane and political researcher Zachary A. Goldfarb contributed to this report.


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