Correction to This Article
An earlier version of this column incorrectly stated that press pool reports of President Bush's tour of the Panama Canal on Monday did not mention that he waved and blew kisses to reporters and photographers.

Much Ado About Tuesday

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Thursday, November 10, 2005; 3:36 PM

It's not a good sign for the president of the United States when respected political reporters start paraphrasing Shakespeare in their leads. It's just a short step from there to Greek tragedy.

Enter Dan Balz , who writes in a Washington Post news analysis this morning: "In a season of discontent for the White House, Tuesday's election results intensified Republican anxiety that next year's midterm contests could bring serious losses unless George W. Bush finds a way to turn around his presidency and shore up support among disaffected, moderate swing voters. . . .

"For Bush, the results from Tuesday and a succession of new polls showing him at the lowest point of his presidency mean further tensions with congressional Republicans. 'It creates an environment where individual members start looking out for themselves rather than the whole team,' Republican pollster Bill McInturff said.

"Bush put his prestige on the line with an election-eve visit to Virginia and now must live with the reality that some Republicans may be reluctant to have the president campaign for them next year. Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) told radio show host Don Imus yesterday that he does not want the president's help: 'No, not at this time.' Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), facing a tough reelection race next year, will not appear at a Bush event in Pennsylvania on Friday but said he welcomes Bush in the state in the future."

Rick Klein writes in the Boston Globe: " 'As they say down in Texas, these folks are running away from President Bush like a scalded dog,' said Representative Rahm Emanuel, an Illinois Democrat who is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee."

Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey write for Newsweek: "Kilgore's defeat in red-state Virginia -- by six points to Democrat Tim Kaine -- suggested the old Bush stump speech has run its course. If Virginia's off-year election is the canary in the mine, it's time to buy another bird. Political strategists will dispute what it all means for the national scene, but on one issue the result seems clear: Bush's aides seriously misjudged the state of the race and the president's ability to shift voters towards the GOP."

Ronald Brownstein writes in the Los Angeles Times: "One GOP strategist familiar with White House thinking said Tuesday's results did not increase the administration's anxiety about next year's elections -- in part because it already recognizes that Republicans will face a stiff challenge unless Bush rebuilds his public support.

" 'If you've got the president's job approval rating at the point where it is, it tells you something, and we're cognizant of that,' said the strategist, who spoke on condition of anonymity while discussing White House matters. 'But I'm not any more worried, and I don't think anyone around the White House is any more worried than they were two days ago.' "

Poll Watch

Mark Murray reports for NBC News: "The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, released Wednesday night, finds that all five of Bush's job approval ratings -- on overall job performance, the economy, foreign policy, terrorism and Iraq -- are at all-time lows in the survey. In addition, the CIA leak scandal seems to be taking a toll on the administration, with nearly 80 percent believing the indictment of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, is a serious matter, and with Bush experiencing a 17-point drop since January in those who see him as honest and straightforward. . . .

"According to the poll, Bush's approval rating stands at an all-time low of 38 percent, a one-point decline since October; in fact, this is the third consecutive NBC/Journal survey showing Bush at an all-time low on his job approval. . . .

"Iraq -- which has emerged as the public's top priority in the poll -- has become a particularly thorny issue for Bush. Fifty-seven percent believe he deliberately misled people to make the case for war, compared with 35 percent who say he gave the most accurate information he had."

Tim Russert called particular attention to Bush's record 57 percent disapproval rating on the NBC Nightly News. What's' Bush's single biggest problem? "Iraq, Iraq, Iraq," Russert said. "Iraq is a cloud that hovers over this presidency."

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