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The Great Bail Out

Public Opinion Watch: Swing and independent voters are abandoning the GOP, along with a good chunk of the party's base.

| Thu Mar. 9, 2006 1:00 AM PST

Bush’s approval rating is now consistently back in the ‘30s and the Democrats have been running strong double-digit leads in the generic Congressional ballot. These trends are being driven by what we might call “the great bail-out”, as not only are swing and independent voters moving sharply away from the GOP, but also a serious chunk of core GOP support. The latter development is truly frightening to Republican operatives and strategists who are only too aware of how dependent their election victories in the last several political cycles have been on rock-solid core support. Take that away and it’s a long way to the bottom.

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Here are some data that illustrate the great bail-out.

1. In the latest Quinnipiac poll, Bush’s approval rating is an anemic 36 percent, with just 75 percent support among Republicans. And in the new LA Times poll, his approval rating is 38 percent, with 77 percent approval among Republicans. The sub-80 approval rating among Republicans could be here to stay.

2. These two polls also illustrate how far south Bush’s strong suit–his handling of the war on terror–has gone. In the Quinnipiac poll, his approval rating on “handling terrorism” was 42 percent, with 52 percent disapproval; in the LA Times poll, his rating on “handling the war on terrorism” was 44 percent with 54 percent disapproval. Amazing. Two ratings on his absolute best issue that are both net negative by 10 points. Truly we are now living a new political world.

3. In the latest Gallup poll, the Democrats are running a 14 point lead (53-39) among registered voters on the generic Congressional ballot question. The Gallup report on the poll summarizes the significance of this gaudy lead:

Gallup's recent trends on this "generic ballot" question -- from October 2005 through early February 2006 -- found a smaller six- to seven-point lead for the Democrats. However, the current 14-point Democratic lead is similar to a 12-point Democratic lead recorded last August. It is also among the highest seen since the Republicans came into power more than a decade ago.

This is not the first election since the Republican Party won majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994 that the Democrats have held a double-digit lead on this important indicator of electoral strength, but it is fairly rare. Throughout much of 1996 and in a couple of polls in 1998, the Democrats enjoyed a 10- to 13-point lead. However, the norm has been for the Republicans to trail the Democrats by only about five points among all registered voters.....

One reason why Democratic candidates may be doing so well in the current poll is that they enjoy a 22-point lead over Republican candidates among independent voters: 51% to 29%. Secondly, Republican voters are not as supportive of their own party's candidate as Democrats are of theirs. More than 9 in 10 Democrats (93%) say they favor the Democratic candidate for Congress in their district; 88% of Republicans are backing the Republican candidate.

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