The Effect Of Bush’s Low Approval

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - March 22, 2006

During this final week of March in election year 2006, it is difficult to conceive of how any Democrat has a chance of beating Gov. Linda Lingle come November. Hawaii’s first female governor boasts a huge campaign treasury, a buoyant Island economy and a moderate Republican political profile. All bode well for a successful re-election bid.

Nay, put those all together and they probably spell “landslide” on Nov. 7.

I said “probably.”

The governor does have a one reason for concern: George W. Bush.

Bush should concern Republicans from Honolulu to Hackensack. The president’s approval ratings have plummeted lower than those of any second term president since World War II: lower than the Korean War-torn Truman’s, lower than the Watergate-plagued Nixon’s, far lower than the impeached Clinton’s.

How low? On March 16 the NBC/Bloomberg poll had 37 percent of the American people approving of Bush’s presidential performance; 58 percent disapproving. On March 14, Fox/Opinion Dynamics had 39 percent approving; 51 percent disapproving. On March 10, the Wall Street Journal had it 37-58. On the same day CNN/USA Today had 36 percent approving Bush; 60 percent disapproving. On March 9, CBS reported it 34-57.

For the moment at least, it’s unanimous: The folks don’t approve of W.

The primary cause of people’s unhappiness with Bush, of course, is the news from Iraq: daily news of suicide bombings, mass murders by warring sectarian factions, endless squabbling among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds - and, of course, the news of continuing bloodshed, Iraqi and young American.

According to the Bloomberg poll, 35 percent of those surveyed approved of the president’s handling of the war in Iraq. Sixty-one percent disapproved.

But the number that should give every Republican pause dealt with which party should control Congress. Fifty percent of respondents in the Bloomberg survey said Democrats; 37 percent said Republicans.

That’s enough to give Republican congressional incumbents sweaty palms from now until November. And possible Republican congressional candidates such as Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, state Sen. Bob Hogue and former City Councilman Mike Gabbard? They might give some second thoughts to running.

Should it make Gov. Lingle nervous? Not as nervous. “All politics are local,” the saying goes. And the saying is correct. The voters will judge Lingle primarily on her stewardship of the state of Hawaii, not on her taste in presidents.

But the governor has been famously loyal to the very unpopular Bush. She’s praised his steadfastness in Iraq and invoked the Bushian mantra about fighting terrorists in the Middle East rather than on our own shores.

In 2004 Lingle spent time campaigning for Bush on the Mainland. Indeed, some of the unsuccessful Republican legislative candidates that year felt she spent too much time campaigning for Bush, too little for them.

Lingle, of course, has not been alone in her slavish devotion to the president. Republicans in both houses of Congress have supported him almost unilaterally on every issue of note for the past six years. In the Bloomberg poll, 62 percent said that the Bush had the country on “the wrong track,” only one in four respondents said it was “the right track.”

That track, right or wrong, was well-greased by the Republican Congress.

Only recently have some congressional Republicans begun to distance themselves from the president - on the Dubai company running American ports, for example. In regard to that issue, Minnesota Republican Sen. Norm Coleman criticized the Bush White House for its “tin ear politically.”

But I’ve neither heard nor read a single word of criticism from any Hawaii Republican about their president, a president the pollsters say is being deserted by old people, independents and moderate Republicans across the country.

Perfection, I suppose, like beauty, is in the eye of the partisan beholder.

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