The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, released this morning, suggests that President Bush has weathered the storm surprisingly well.
He still enjoys a healthy 56% approval rating. More important, 66% approve of Bush’s handling of the war on terrorism, far and away the leading issue of the day. And by a 56% to 30% margin, respondents say that Democrats are “mostly playing politics” in attacking the administration’s rationale for the war, rather than offering “legitimate criticism.”
Moreover, public support for the war in Iraq continues to be strong. About 70% of Americans say that removing Saddam from power was a good idea. Fifty-eight percent are willing to keep troops in Iraq for five years or more, if necessary to do the job. Worse yet for Democrats, respondents expect the economy to get better rather than worse over the next year by a 45% to 15% margin. And by 60% to 35%, respondents think stimulating the economy is more important than controlling deficits.
Over the next year, progress in the war on terror is sure to occur. Either bin Laden or Saddam, or both, will likely be run to ground. More al Qaeda operatives will be caught. The situtation in Iraq will improve, and more Americans will come to understand the pivotal role of Iraq in reforming the Arab world. And the economy will certainly get stronger, barring, as always, a major terrorist attack.
So, on that scenario, President Bush could run the table in 2004. Will it happen? Likely not; but for the moment, the Democrats have to be worried that their domination of the news cycle over the past month hasn’t produced more tangible results.
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