Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Apocalypse Tuesday II

Besides generating the usual fears of the Triple Beast Number, this year's edition of June 6 also issued an omen of sorts for the GOP. The good folks at the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press are at it again, with what conservatives will no doubt reflexively call another downbeat liberal poll.

But there's a difference with this latest sampling of the American mood. With a bigger polling population, Pew's new report comes much closer to being a real sampling of that feeling about the Bush administration, a mood that is souring among the most loyal conservatives, a bloc of voters whose ribs are made of something less durable than rock these days.

"As public approval of George W. Bush languishes at all-time low levels, supporters of the president are increasingly hard to find," says the Pew report, written by Courtney Kennedy and Michael Dimock. "In the months following his re-election, roughly half of the country rated Bush's job performance favorably. Today only a third of Americans do so, while more than half (56%) disapprove of his performance."

It gets worse among the presumably faithful, Pew reports. "While the decline in support transcends ideological and demographic lines, the drop among one group – moderate Republicans – has been especially steep. Among all Republicans, Bush's job approval rating has dropped 20 percentage points since December 2004 (from 89% to 69%). This erosion of support has been most severe among Republicans describing themselves as moderate or liberal ... "

If you can imagine, it gets even worse than that. The Soccer Mom Contingent, that bloc of voters whose solidity in the GOP corner last election was considered a bellwether for the future of national politics, is also vacating the premises:

"Within the Republican Party, moderate women stand out for their lack of support for the president. Through most of Bush's presidency he has been evaluated similarly by men and women within the GOP, but this latest survey shows signs of a potential gender gap."

If a high tide lifts all boats, a hurricane wipes 'em all out, and that's what's happening to the Bush administration among voters who are and aren't Republicans. Across the board, GOP supporters including white evangelical Protestants, senior citizens, Catholics and high-income earners are down on the president and his policies. And his support among Latinos (no doubt already subject to erosion because of policies related to the immigration debate) and black voters (who weren't that solidly in his corner to start with, despite 2004's slight uptick) are all trending down.

Now, anything can happen by Election Day, and probably will. The stalwarts in the White House and the Republican party will retrench, lick their wounds and rally what's left of the troops to the cause. Loyal apparatchiks like Ed Rogers, identified on several talk shows as a Republican strategist. Ever the quote machine, Rogers (speaking in January about the fallout from another bad flood tide, the one on the Gulf Coast last year) has long condemned Beltway thinking as too reactive to the individual moment. Rogers raps old-line Foggy Bottom thought as "bad gets worse ... every mistake becomes a metaphor."

But the administration's current woes aren't a matter of bad getting worse. They're a matter of failing to forthrightly address what makes a situation bad in the first place, and correcting it -- a course of action the administration has been challenged with for some time.

Note to Ed Rogers: Some mistakes deserve to be metaphors. They perfectly explain the broader dimensions of a situation, a policy, an administration. They clearly point to the pattern behind a series of seemingly random behaviors. The White House's mistakes of late -- from the dismal official reaction to Hurricane Katrina to the deepening sectarian quagmire in Iraq -- can't be anything but a metaphor for an administration paying, at every turn, for its insistence on its own version of reality.

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