Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Is this rock bottom?

Bush approval
Rep. Mark Foley describes himself as "one of President Bush's strongest supporters in Congress," but as GOP Unease Spreads to Security Issues, he's breaking ranks:
"We simply want to participate and aren't going to be PR flacks when they need us," Foley said. "We all have roles. We have oversight. When you can't answer your constituents when they have legitimate questions . . . we can't simply do it on trust."
And Rep. Heather Wilson is usually on wingnuttier side of things, but the Washington Post credit her with claiming the recent Congressional awakening "owes more to administration mishandling than to a changing mood on Capitol Hill."

I'm not sure.

Political Arithmetick reviews the recent trends in Presidential approval ratings, displayed at the right. The President improved through December and some of January, and has been falling ever since. The recent CBS poll pulls those numbers down even further, but not by much. As you can see, 34% is where approval bottomed out last time, when the President became as unpopular as Richard Nixon was when John Dean testified about the President ordering illegal surveillance of his political enemies.

Nixon's numbers dropped well below this point, of course, but I wonder how much further Bush's numbers can drop barring implications that he personally passed Valerie Plame's photograph to terrorists.

The most interesting aspect of the poll is where the slippage originated. National security has been the President's strength for much of his presidency, but in the latest CBS poll, handling of the war on terrorism falls to 43%, from 52% last month. This month is the lowest level ever for that question.

Obviously the UAE port deal plays a part in that, but I think the collapse of Iraq and the reappearance of bin Laden have to play into it. Approval of the handling of the Iraq war hit a new low with 30% approving of the job the President has done, and only 36% think the war in Iraq is going well (also a new low).

The last time a majority approved of the President's work in a CBS poll, or felt invading Iraq was the right choice, was around the last election. It seems like the Administration was basically governing for the election, and having won re-election, let things go.

While President Bush doesn't have to worry about re-election, Congress does. And a good chunk of the vote in Congressional races is actually cast based on views of the President. Congresscritters in tight races may be pulling away from the President to insulate themselves from his unpopularity and his poor showing on key issues.

The poll also covers the warrantless wiretapping. A little over half (51%) approve of the President authorizing wiretaps without a warrant to fight terrorism. When terrorism is omitted from the question, only 46% approve. Fewer people, only 43%, think the president has the legal authority to authorize wiretaps without a warrant to fight terrorism.

A whopping 11% have "a great deal" of confidence in the government's ability to tell who should be monitored, while 47% had no confidence in that, 40% had "a fair amount." That's why we have warrants, kids.