Bush's Downward Slide

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, October 10, 2006; 1:18 PM

President Bush's approval ratings appear to be dropping to their lowest levels ever -- and this time, to the enormous apprehension of the White House, there's something voters can do about it.

Officially, the White House refuses to even consider the possibility of a Democratic takeover of Congress in the November 7 elections. (As Ken Herman writes for Cox News Service, "It's a question the White House has banished to the won't-dignify-it-with-an-answer category.")

Maybe that's because it's hard for anyone -- Bush fan or foe -- to imagine how different a Bush presidency would be with a Congress that doesn't bend to his will and maybe even starts to question him.

And while it's too soon to count Karl Rove and the White House political machine out, it's going to be awfully hard for Bush to come to the rescue of his party when his lack of credibility is the cause of so many of its problems.

Poll Watch

Underlying grim news at the polls for Republicans generally is a dismal report card for the president in particular. Bush approval ratings in a nutshell: Washington Post/ABC, 39; Newsweek, 33; New York Times/CBS, 34; USA Today/Gallup, 37.

David S. Broder and Dan Balz write in The Washington Post: "Democrats have regained a commanding position going into the final weeks of the midterm-election campaigns, with support eroding for Republicans on Iraq, ethics and presidential leadership, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. . . .

"President Bush's approval rating, which rose to 42 percent in September after an anti-terrorism offensive marking the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, registered 39 percent in the latest poll. The percentage of respondents who said they strongly disapprove of his performance is about double the number who strongly approve. This disparity in voter intensity could have implications for turnout on Nov. 7, since impassioned voters are most likely to go to the polls. . . .

"Bush's ratings on the war in Iraq are among the lowest of his presidency, with 35 percent approving of how he is handling the situation and 64 percent disapproving (54 percent strongly disapprove). On terrorism, a majority (53 percent) said they disapprove of his performance. That is the lowest rating Bush has received on his signature issue."

Here are those poll results .

Marcus Mabry writes for Newsweek that "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."

There seems to be little doubt that the congressional page-sex scandal revolving around former Republican representative Mark Foley has crystallized voters' doubts about the GOP overall.

Writes Mabry: "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 [House Speaker Dennis] 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.

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