May 9, 2006 -- Things are looking worse and worse for President Bush who said after he was re-elected in 2004 that he had political capital and intended to spend it.
According to a new Gallup/USA Today poll, that capital is dwindling. The poll found that the president's approval rating stood at 31 percent -- a record low. His disapproval rating is 65 percent, just a point away from President Nixon's days before his resignation in 1974.
With midterm elections in November, Republicans are worried they could lose control of Congress.
Paul Begala, a former Clinton adviser and co-author of "Take It Back: Our Party, Our Country, Our Future," said that there was a less than 50 percent chance that Democrats would take back the Senate but that "the tidal wave is out there and the Democrats will take back the House."
Democrats need six seats to take the Senate and 15 to take the House. Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, said there were 30 to 40 unsafe GOP seats and five to 12 unsafe Democratic seats.
"House Republicans are going to have to make a case about what it would be like to have Democrats there," said Bay Buchanan, president of the American Cause, a conservative educational foundation. She said that Bush had only a 52 percent approval rating with conservatives and that if a politician didn't have his base, he had nothing.
Bush on the Wrong Side?
Buchanan pointed out that Bush's numbers had been low for quite awhile, due mostly to the war in Iraq. The recent immigration debate has made his numbers even lower, she said. The president supports a bill that would allow illegal immigrants to become guest workers but improve security.
"The president is on the wrong side, and I think it's damaged him. There is no question that the majority want to see a fence with doors coming in and out," she said.
An Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Friday had Bush with a 33 percent approval rating and Congress with a 25 percent approval rating. The poll found that 51 percent of Americans said they wanted Democrats rather than Republicans to control Congress. Only 34 percent favored Republican control.
Even though the odds appear in the Democrats' favor, Buchanan said they could blow their opportunity.
She said if House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi continued to appear on TV and talk about impeachment hearings and investigating the Republican leadership, she would turn people off because she was out of touch. Even Begala said that Democrats should focus on showing people how they will make a difference with policies on things like health and energy.
Begala said that Karl Rove, the president's senior adviser, had also become somewhat of a liability, even though he is credited with leading Bush to victories in 2000 and 2004. Rove may be facing indictment in the CIA leak case, he said, and he "is the guy that brought Bush down from 91 percent to 31 percent."
Lately it seems the president has been having difficulty conveying a serious, positive message. When he was asked by a German reporter about the high point of his time as president, Bush responded that his best moment was when he caught a 7½-pound bass in his own lake.
"The question, I think, is the fear that the guys in the White House and the gals and the White House have. I think the risk is the fear for the Republicans that the country is trying to tune out this president," Begala said. "The fear is that people are looking at this guy and saying he's a failed president."