Don’t Look Now, But…

…President Bush’s standing with the public is rebounding rather sharply. The easiest way to gauge this is by checking Real Cleal Politics’ Presidential approval polling summary. Newspapers continue to recite, ritually, that Bush’s standing with the public is at its lowest ebb, is plummeting, etc.; but that simply isn’t the case.

The latest evidence comes from the latest CBS News poll, released today. It shows a five-point bump since last month, to 40%. That still isn’t a great number, of course, but this is also a “random adult” poll, and it is reasonable to assume that a “likely voter” survey would yield a higher number.

Moreover, there is quite a bit of good news for the President and Republicans in CBS’s poll data. The key issue is Iraq; of those who disapprove of the President’s performance, the Iraq war is cited as the reason by 53%. No other response garners more than 8%. Yet the data on Iraq are contradictory and, I suspect, highly volatile. Thus, respondents favor setting a timetable for withdrawal by 58% to 39%. That may sound like good news for the Democrats. Yet, by a remarkable 61% to 34%, respondents agree with the President that removing our troops from Iraq now would be a “recipe for disaster.” 40% say that removing our troops will increase the risk of terrorism against the U.S., while only 8% agree with the liberal theory that withdrawal would decrease that risk. Further, by 36% to 21%, respondents say that if their representative supported immediate withdrawal, it would make them less likely to vote for him or her. So it appears that the “immediate surrender” option favored by most liberal Democrats could be an electoral disaster.

Currently, respondents are evenly split, 48% to 48%, on whether the Iraq war was a good idea. But optimism is on the upswing, and if, a year from now, our troops are being drawn down and the security situation is perceived as improving, the Democrats’ Chicken Little moment could become a severe embarrassment.

There is other good news for Republicans in the CBS poll. Perceptions of the economy are improving; the percentage describing the economy as “good” has jumped from 47% to 55% in the last month. I think that is directly related to falling gas prices.

And the Democrats’ “culture of corruption” theme has made little or no impact on the public; by 34% to 31%, respondents say Republicans have “higher ethical standards.”

The data are not all rosy, of course; but the trend line is good, at the moment, for the Republicans. If the situation in Iraq is perceived as improving and gas prices continue to moderate, the Democrats’ ambitions could be foiled again next November.

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