White House strategists are feeling a new rush of optimism about President Bush's remaining 10 months in office. One reason is a new internal Republican poll, obtained by U.S. News, which indicates that while Bush's job-approval ratings remain low, some of his major policies have become quite popular. If Bush and his surrogates can make the policies better known, GOP strategists believe that will lift not only Bush's approval ratings but the overall standing of his party.
What has the West Wing buzzing is a survey by GOP pollster Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group that found that, for all his troubles, voters still like the president. "Fully 56 percent of likely voters approve of the president personally, driven by voter sentiments that he is a person of strong moral character and integrity," Goeas writes in a private analysis designed for Republican leaders. "If the situation in Iraq continues to improve and the national economy improves, this goodwill will be crucial in allowing voters to change their assessment of his job performance."
About 64 percent of likely voters approve of Bush's economic stimulus package passed earlier this year; 67 percent back his initiatives to help struggling homeownerssurvive the current mortgage crisis; 70 percent endorse his plan to allow monitoring of foreign communications of suspected terrorists; and 72 percent back his visit to the Mideast to promote peace. In addition, 52 percent approve of his surge of U.S. troops into Iraq.
Still, the poll finds that 76 percent of likely voters believe the country is on the wrong track and 62 percent disapprove of Bush's job performance—numbers that have not changed much in the past year. "Much of this sentiment appears to be driven by voter anxiety and dissatisfaction with the inability of Washington politicians of all political persuasions to address voters' concerns," Goeas says.
Goeas argues that his findings should encourage GOP candidates to defend Bush's record and invite the president to campaign and raise money for them. Not surprisingly, Democratic strategists are convinced that Bush will be a drag on the GOP. Bring it on, they say.