- George W. Bush's admission that he expects
to leave the Iraq War mess behind for his successor to clean up underscores
why he is facing a historic collapse in polls across the country, with
tracking surveys now showing him with net negatives exceeding 20 percentage
points in more than half the states.
- According to SurveyUSA.com, which tracks
Bush's approval ratings in all 50 states, Bush's support in the March readings
plunged to double-digit net negative numbers even in some staunchly Republican
states: -12% in South Carolina, -17% in Indiana, -18% in Virginia, and
-19% in Tennessee. In Bush's home state of Texas, public disapproval topped
approval by 14 percentage points.
- All told, Bush - dragged down by the
Iraq War, his inept Katrina response and the exploding federal debt - has
higher disapproval than approval numbers in 43 states. Bush is at -10%
or worse in 37 states; -20% or worse in 26 states; -30% or worse in 13
states; and a staggering -40% or worse in six states.
- The March readings show Bush with positive
numbers in only seven states (and then by mostly narrow margins): Nebraska
+1%, Mississippi +2%, Oklahoma +2%, Idaho +3%, Alabama +5%, Wyoming +7%,
and Utah +13%.
- While SurveyUSA.com's averaging of the
numbers for the 50 states fits with recent national surveys showing Bush
with about 35% approval and 60% disapproval - a net negative of 25 points
- the state-by-state numbers highlight the pervasiveness of Bush's political
- Electoral Fears
- The dismal numbers also help explain
why some Republicans, facing elections this November, are shying away from
Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who suffers even lower ratings than
- Plus, over the past half year, Bush has
shown little ability to rebound. His national numbers have been low since
last summer's Katrina debacle reinforced doubts about his administration's
competence, which already had taken a beating over the Iraq War. Those
concerns now have mixed with growing suspicions about his honesty.
- Still, despite last year's post-Katrina
slump, Bush retained favorable numbers in many "red states" that
he carried in 2004. In most months, he was even or in positive numbers
in at least 10 states, though in November 2005 the number of plus or break-even
states slid to six.
- Even then, however, Bush enjoyed robust
numbers in the reddest "red states" - with a +21% bulge in Utah
and +20% in Idaho. There were also fewer extremely negative numbers in
November, with Bush at -10% or worse in only 15 states, compared to 37
such states now.
- By March 2006, Bush's public support
had crumbled across the country. Even among his seven favorable states,
his edge was within the polling "margin of error" in four of
them, meaning that Bush might be down to as few as three states still favoring
him. In Election 2004, Bush carried those same seven states by margins
ranging from +20% to +46%.
- The seven remaining pro-Bush states also
are lightly populated, accounting for only 16.5 million people or less
than 6% of the U.S. population in the 2000 census. They have just 39 electoral
- Bush's plunge in the polls has been perhaps
most dramatic in the swing states of Florida and Ohio, where Bush claimed
his controversial victories in Election 2000 and Election 2004, respectively.
Bush now gets a net approval rating in Ohio of -30% and in Florida -22%.
- In other swing states of Election 2004,
Bush's net ratings are -23% in Nevada and New Mexico; -24% in Missouri;
-25% in Colorado; -27% in Iowa; and -28% in Arkansas.
- Narrowed Options
- Given the depth and breadth of this political
collapse, it's hard to envision how Bush can rebuild his standing between
now and November, short of some major external event, such as the death
or capture of Osama bin-Laden, or a breakthrough in the Iraq War, or the
nation rallying around him because of some new military or terrorist crisis.
- Across the Internet, there has been open
speculation by Bush critics that he might cynically launch a new war against
Iran to bolster his numbers - or that Republicans will resort to widespread
electoral fraud to keep control of Congress.
- But the realistic options for Bush turning
his predicament around seem to be narrowing as he loses support even in
his strongest political strongholds. Plus, the likely course of events
in the Middle East and domestically do not seem to favor Bush.
- At his press conference on March 21,
Bush acknowledged that the continuing bloodshed in Iraq had drained his
political capital. He then blurted out that the issue of whether to withdraw
all U.S. troops from Iraq would be decided by "future presidents and
future governments of Iraq."
- This comment marked one of the few times
Bush has given a clue about how long he expects the war to continue.
- But the suggestion that his successors
will have to make the hard decisions on extricating U.S. troops reinforces
Bush's image as a feckless son of privilege who rushes into projects, flounders
and then gets bailed out by others. [See Consortiumnews.com's "The
Bush Family 'Oiligarchy'" or Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege.]
- Bush's critics also are sure to accuse
him of dragging out the war - and getting thousands of more Americans and
Iraqis killed - in part to avoid having to take responsibility for his
own mistakes. By extending the war until 2009, Bush's supporters also may
be hoping to blame whoever succeeds Bush for "losing Iraq."
- While this strategy of palming off the
Iraq disaster on a future President might make some sense for the political
legacies of Bush and his neoconservative allies, it's unlikely to help
Republicans in this November's elections.
- GOP candidates will face a choice of
either distancing themselves from the President (and risking alienating
Bush's hard-core backers) or tying themselves to Bush (and having voters
opt for a more independent candidate).
- Still, even with Bush's low poll numbers,
the chances for a Democratic sweep of the House and Senate don't appear
high, given the limited number of "competitive" seats. But political
analysts can't rule out an electoral tidal wave, like the one in 1994 that
overwhelmed the Democrats and carried the Republicans to majorities in
- Whatever the outcome in November, however,
Bush's personal reversal of fortune over the past several months has been
- For a "wartime" President who
celebrated his Second Inaugural with high-blown rhetoric only 14 months
ago - and who once enjoyed 90% approval ratings - to be clinging to positive
ratings in only seven states represents a political flameout not seen in
Washington since the Watergate scandal drove Richard Nixon from office
more than three decades ago.
- Plus, Bush's supporters can't just point
to their man's unpopularity among "liberal elites" in Hollywood
- With another new poll showing more and
more Americans judging him an "incompetent" and a "liar,"
Bush also is losing the backing of millions of Middle Americans in states
like Texas, Ohio and South Dakota.
- Consortiumnews.com is a product of The
Consortium for Independent Journalism, Inc., a non-profit organization
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