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Bush, GOP Approval Ratings Hit New Lows
Just 36 Percent of the Public Approves of the President's Job Performance
By RON FOURNIER, AP
WASHINGTON (April 7) - President Bush's approval ratings hit a series of new lows in an AP-Ipsos poll that also shows Republicans surrendering their advantage on national security -- grim election-year news for a party struggling to stay in power.
Democratic leaders predicted they will seize control of one or both chambers of Congress in November. Republicans said they feared the worst unless the political landscape quickly changes.
Just 36 percent of the public approves of Bush's job performance, his lowest-ever rating in AP-Ipsos polling. By contrast, the president's job approval rating was 47 percent among likely voters just before Election Day 2004 and a whopping 64 percent among registered voters in October 2002.
By comparison, Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan had public approval in the mid 60s at this stage of their second terms in office, while Dwight Eisenhower was close to 60 percent, according to Gallup polls. Richard Nixon, who was increasingly tangled up in the Watergate scandal, was in the high 20s in early 1974.
As bad as Bush's numbers may be, Congress' are worse.
Just 30 percent of the public approves of the GOP-led Congress' job performance, and Republicans seem to be shouldering the blame.
"These numbers are scary. We've lost every advantage we've ever had," GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio said. "The good news is Democrats don't have much of a plan. The bad news is they may not need one."
There is more at stake than the careers of GOP lawmakers. A Democratic-led Congress could bury the last vestiges of Bush's legislative agenda and subject the administration to high-profile investigations of the Iraq war, the CIA leak case, warrantless eavesdropping and other matters.
In the past two congressional elections, Republicans gained seats on the strength of Bush's popularity and a perception among voters that the GOP was stronger on national security than Democrats.
Those advantages are gone, according to a survey of 1,003 adults conducted this week for The Associated Press by Ipsos, an international polling firm.
Only 40 percent of the public approves of Bush's performance on foreign policy and the war on terror, another low-water mark for his presidency. That's down 9 points from a year ago. Just before the 2002 election, 64 percent of registered voters backed Bush on terror and foreign policy.
Just 35 percent of the public approves of Bush's handling of Iraq, his lowest in AP-Ipsos polling.
"He's in over his head," said Diane Heller, 65, a Pleasant Valley, N.Y., real estate broker and independent voter.
By a 49-33 margin, the public favors Democrats over Republicans when asked which party should control Congress.
That 16-point Democratic advantage is the largest the party has enjoyed in AP-Ipsos polling.