Will Bush's Poll Numbers Affect GOP in '06?

The 2006 Congressional elections may be a worry for the ruling Republican Party, as just over half of voters say they favor Democrats.

Being a Republican seems to have turned into a liability for some candidates, as only 38 percent of Americans approve of the job President Bush is doing, according to an ABC News poll. Some candidates, such as Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y. and Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., are actually neglecting to mention their affiliation in campaign ads.

Last week Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele told The Washington Post that he disagreed with the president's handling of Iraq and Katrina and that his Republican affiliation amounted to a "scarlet R." He later recanted.

A Tough Year

"There's no doubt this has been a tough year for the president, but you have to understand that he's been campaigning in districts that are solidly Republican and his popularity among Republicans has recovered a lot," said Brian Jones, communications director for the Republican National Committee. "Now, if there are specific districts or states where candidates feel the need to differentiate, we've said that's acceptable. But one thing people need to remember, the Republican Party is a brand and President Bush is the leader of that brand. To go against him after a certain point means going against yourself, too."

Although the ABC poll found 40 percent of voters said that their vote in 2006 would be motivated by their feelings about the Bush administration, Jones said the upcoming Congressional elections will be won and lost on local issues. Although American voters favor Democrats on Iraq -- which most say is their number one issue -- Jones said "the Democrats are disunited on Iraq, on lots of issues."

"So we feel like this will be a challenge, but not an insurmountable one," he said.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said that the United States cannot afford to keep spending money in Iraq and that Democrats will put America back on track.

"Consider the source," said Jones, adding that the United States cannot afford to "cut and run" in Iraq.

"He's someone who is more interested in making headlines than headway in the Middle East," Jones added. "He's good at throwing the rhetorical fire bombs, and that's about it."

But ABC News poll found that voters are not just second guessing Bush on Iraq. Forty-eight percent to 38 percent of voters said they trusted Democrats more than Republicans to do a better job in coping with the nation's main problems; 52 percent to 39 percent favor Democrats on the economy and 45 percent to 40 percent favor the Democrats on immigration.

"Ultimately the question is: Do you want higher taxes?" Jones said. "Do you want a cut and run strategy in Iraq? Do you want leaders who will impeach the president?"