Bush Bump Goes Bye-Bye? genre: Polispeak

Chasing the checkered flag

So much for the Bush bump. What appeared to be the makings of a trend may have been derailed by a string of damaging news for the President and his Party. After an impressive rebound brought about by a return to the politics of fear...it now looks like the GOP has to fear that they are on the verge of a political meltdown. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll may offer a glimpse of the latest shift in the ever changing political terrain.

After what they have seen and heard over the past few weeks -- events including the news of a Republican congressman's improper correspondence with a teenage page and the recent release of journalist Bob Woodward's unfavorable portrayal of the Bush administration's handling of Iraq – respondents to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, by more than a 2-to-1 ratio, say they have a less favorable impression of the Republicans maintaining control of Congress.

What's more, a strong plurality believes the Iraq war is hurting the country's ability to win the war on terrorism, a significant shift from a month ago.

Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with the Republican Bill McInturff, says that there is the point in every election when it becomes crystallized for voters. And the events from the past week, he notes, could very well be that point for the upcoming midterms.

While I would like to believe that Mr. Hart is correct, five weeks still seems like forever in light of the many possible events that could influence voter sentiment. I do believe that we are approaching a point of no return with the voting public...and recent events...including the Mark Foley scandal...may have made the possibility of a GOP resurgence all the more unlikely. Despite the Bush administration's years of success in using fear to forestall a voter insurrection, the majority of the citizenry may be ready to roll the dice...concluding that it would be difficult to imagine that the Democrats could do any worse than their opponents.

In the poll, Bush's job approval rating is at 39 percent among registered voters, a drop of three points since September, when his rating had increased to its highest level in months after he gave a series of speeches on national security leading into the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The three-point drop, however, is within the poll's margin of error of plus-minus 3.5 percentage points.

Moreover, an eye-popping 41 percent say that the things they have seen and heard over the last few weeks have given them a less favorable impression of Republicans holding onto control of Congress. Just 18 percent say they have a more favorable impression.

Conversely, 34 percent believe the events over the past few weeks have given them a more favorable impression of Democrats becoming the majority party in Congress, while 23 percent say the events have given them a less favorable impression. Thirty-seven percent say the events have had no effect.

In a separate article, Howard Fineman offers his observation that the race is fast becoming what could be characterized as the Democrat's to lose. Fineman views the Foley scandal as the final piece in an equation that ought to make the Democratic advantage insurmountable...but if they fail, he suggests they may be relegated to virtual obscurity.

There is cause for concern. Parents send kids to schools that are targets of attack. They send them into a popular culture of numbness and corrosion. They send them to college loaded with debt and worried about the fate of the planet. Families can empathize — deeply — with parents who sent their children to Washington. The pages were supposed to learn about civics and government, not sexual predation.

In America — or anywhere, really — scandals don’t crystallize into Scandals until they turn into gripping personal narratives.

The Foley Scandal is a missile aimed at the heart of the GOP’s most important base constituency: evangelical, Bible-believing Christians, who were already upset with the administration on a host of issues — including spending and immigration.

I generally agree with Fineman but I also heard the likes of Rush Limbaugh dishing out the election saving rhetoric which has always proven sufficient to motivate this voter constituency...that being if you don't get out and vote all the work that went into altering the makeup of the Supreme Court could go to waste. He made it clear that the GOP may be just one justice away from achieving the nation altering shift the movement has spent decades attempting to promote.

Given the conviction of this voting block, I find it hard to imagine that they wouldn't hold their nose and vote for the GOP...even if they did so for one singular issue. After all, they have endured six years of this administration and affording the President two more years of majority rule will seem a small price to pay for what they view as the ultimate prize. One thing is for certain...the decision is just around the corner.

Daniel DiRito | October 3, 2006 | 9:59 PM
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