SurveyUSA.com, which tracks Bush’s approval ratings in all 50
states, Bush’s support in the March readings plunged to double-digit net
negative numbers even in some staunchly Republican states: -12% in South
Carolina, -17% in Indiana, -18% in Virginia, and -19% in Tennessee. In
Bush’s home state of Texas, public disapproval topped approval by 14
All told, Bush – dragged down by the Iraq War, his
inept Katrina response and the exploding federal debt – has higher
disapproval than approval numbers in 43 states. Bush is at -10% or worse
in 37 states; -20% or worse in 26 states; -30% or worse in 13 states;
and a staggering -40% or worse in six states.
The March readings show Bush with positive numbers
in only seven states (and then by mostly narrow margins): Nebraska +1%,
Mississippi +2%, Oklahoma +2%, Idaho +3%, Alabama +5%, Wyoming +7%, and
While SurveyUSA.com’s averaging of the numbers for
the 50 states fits with recent national surveys showing Bush with about
35% approval and 60% disapproval – a net negative of 25 points – the
state-by-state numbers highlight the pervasiveness of Bush’s political
The dismal numbers also help explain why some
Republicans, facing elections this November, are shying away from Bush
and Vice President Dick Cheney, who suffers even lower ratings than
Plus, over the past half year, Bush has shown
little ability to rebound. His national numbers have been low since last
summer’s Katrina debacle reinforced doubts about his administration’s
competence, which already had taken a beating over the Iraq War. Those
concerns now have mixed with growing suspicions about his honesty.
Still, despite last year’s post-Katrina slump, Bush
retained favorable numbers in many “red states” that he carried in 2004.
In most months, he was even or in positive numbers in at least 10
states, though in November 2005 the number of plus or break-even states
slid to six.
Even then, however, Bush enjoyed robust numbers in
the reddest “red states” – with a +21% bulge in Utah and +20% in Idaho.
There were also fewer extremely negative numbers in November, with Bush
at -10% or worse in only 15 states, compared to 37 such states now.
By March 2006, Bush’s public support had crumbled
across the country. Even among his seven favorable states, his edge was
within the polling “margin of error” in four of them, meaning that Bush
might be down to as few as three states still favoring him. In Election
2004, Bush carried those same seven states by margins ranging from +20%
The seven remaining pro-Bush states also are
lightly populated, accounting for only 16.5 million people or less than
6% of the U.S. population in the 2000 census. They have just 39
Bush’s plunge in the polls has been perhaps most
dramatic in the swing states of Florida and Ohio, where Bush claimed his
controversial victories in Election 2000 and Election 2004,
respectively. Bush now gets a net approval rating in Ohio of -30% and in
In other swing states of Election 2004, Bush’s net
ratings are -23% in Nevada and New Mexico; -24% in Missouri; -25% in
Colorado; -27% in Iowa; and -28% in Arkansas.
Given the depth and breadth of this political
collapse, it’s hard to envision how Bush can rebuild his standing
between now and November, short of some major external event, such as
the death or capture of Osama bin-Laden, or a breakthrough in the Iraq
War, or the nation rallying around him because of some new military or
Across the Internet, there has been open
speculation by Bush critics that he might cynically launch a new war
against Iran to bolster his numbers – or that Republicans will resort to
widespread electoral fraud to keep control of Congress.
But the realistic options for Bush turning his
predicament around seem to be narrowing as he loses support even in his
strongest political strongholds. Plus, the likely course of events in
the Middle East and domestically do not seem to favor Bush.
At his press conference on March 21, Bush
acknowledged that the continuing bloodshed in Iraq had drained his
political capital. He then blurted out that the issue of whether to
withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq would be decided by “future
presidents and future governments of Iraq.”
This comment marked one of the few times Bush has
given a clue about how long he expects the war to continue.
But the suggestion that his successors will have to
make the hard decisions on extricating U.S. troops reinforces Bush’s
image as a feckless son of privilege who rushes into projects, flounders
and then gets bailed out by others. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The
Bush Family ‘Oiligarchy’” or Robert Parry’s
Secrecy & Privilege.]
Bush’s critics also are sure to accuse him of
dragging out the war – and getting thousands of more Americans and
Iraqis killed – in part to avoid having to take responsibility for his
own mistakes. By extending the war until 2009, Bush’s supporters also
may be hoping to blame whoever succeeds Bush for “losing Iraq.”
While this strategy of palming off the Iraq
disaster on a future President might make some sense for the political
legacies of Bush and his neoconservative allies, it’s unlikely to help
Republicans in this November’s elections.
GOP candidates will face a choice of either
distancing themselves from the President (and risking alienating Bush’s
hard-core backers) or tying themselves to Bush (and having voters opt
for a more independent candidate).
Still, even with Bush’s low poll numbers, the
chances for a Democratic sweep of the House and Senate don’t appear
high, given the limited number of “competitive” seats. But political
analysts can’t rule out an electoral tidal wave, like the one in 1994
that overwhelmed the Democrats and carried the Republicans to majorities
in both chambers.
Whatever the outcome in November, however, Bush’s
personal reversal of fortune over the past several months has been
For a “wartime” President who celebrated his Second
Inaugural with high-blown rhetoric only 14 months ago – and who once
enjoyed 90% approval ratings – to be clinging to positive ratings in
only seven states represents a political flameout not seen in Washington
since the Watergate scandal drove Richard Nixon from office more than
three decades ago.
Plus, Bush’s supporters can’t just point to their
man’s unpopularity among “liberal elites” in Hollywood or Manhattan.
With another new poll showing more and more Americans judging him
an “incompetent” and a “liar,” Bush also is losing the backing of
millions of Middle Americans in states like Texas, Ohio and South