The Note: The Last Time a New York Times Poll Write-up Was Positive for Republicans Was . . .

"In coming weeks, the separate efforts of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas will determine whether even that is possible, numerous Republicans say. What has become clear after months of meetings with Republicans on their respective panels, however, is that their packages won't include Mr. Bush's proposal for personal accounts carved from Social Security payroll taxes and may not meet his demand to keep the program solvent."

"The two plans are still emerging but have several common concepts. Both would reduce future benefits for all but the poorest workers, much as Mr. Bush proposes. Both would raise the retirement age for full benefits, contingent on increases in Americans' lifespans. Both want to avoid raising payroll taxes."

"But both chairmen have given up on finding enough Republican votes, in the face of Democratic opposition, to pass Mr. Bush's proposal to let workers born in 1950 and after divert a third of the 12.4% Social Security payroll tax to private accounts, in return for reduced regular benefits. With Republicans including House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois balking at having to vote for unpopular benefit trims, Mr. Bush's demand for 'permanent solvency' for Social Security also is increasingly unlikely to be met."

"Republicans say Mr. Bush's best hope is that Mr. Thomas can pass a solvency package with some modest accounts proposal in the House, which could yield a compromise with the Senate that sows the seed for the Bush-type accounts."

"In view of the president's problems, conservatives who favor private accounts are about to step in with their own alternative. Next week, Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina will introduce legislation, with support from third-ranking Senate leader Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, that shuns the solvency goal in favor of creating small private accounts from Social Security's current surpluses. Trustees project the program will start running annual deficits in 2017."

The Bush presidency:

Robin Toner and Marjorie Connelly write in the New York Times: "Increasingly pessimistic about Iraq and skeptical about President Bush's plan for Social Security, Americans are in a season of political discontent, giving Mr. Bush one of the lowest approval ratings of his presidency and even lower marks to Congress, according to the New York Times/CBS News Poll." LIN

"Forty-two percent of the people responding to the poll said they approved of the way Mr. Bush was handling his job, a marked decline from his 51 percent rating after of the November election, when he embarked on an ambitious second term agenda led by the overhaul of Social Security. Sixteen months before the midterm elections, Congress fared even worse in the survey, with the approval of just 33 percent of the respondents, and 19 percent saying Congress shared their priorities."

"Despite months of presidential effort, the nationwide poll found the public is not rallying toward Mr. Bush's vision of a new Social Security that would allow younger workers to put part of their payroll taxes into private investment accounts. Two-thirds said they were uneasy about Mr. Bush's ability to make sound decisions on Social Security. Only 25 percent said they approved of the way Mr. Bush was handling Social Security, down slightly from what the poll found in March."

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