Bush rating dips to 43 percent

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President Bush’s job approval rating fell to a new low yesterday, as did the number of Americans who think the United States is winning the war on terror, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll.

“It’s not good news for the White House,” said independent pollster Scott Rasmussen. “Those figures are by far the most pessimistic ever recorded by Rasmussen Reports.”

He was referring to the president’s 43 percent job approval rating, down five points from a week ago, and a poll that shows that 38 percent of Americans think the allies are winning the war on terror. Thirty-six percent think the terrorists are winning.

Meanwhile, consumer confidence has fallen to a 20-month low, the pollster said, thanks in large part to surging oil prices.

“American families shouldn’t have to choose between a tank of gas and a bag of groceries,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said yesterday. “Apparently, when President Bush holds a photo op to say the economy is doing well, he means the economy is going well for oil and gas companies.”

About the only good news for Mr. Bush comes from polls that show widespread support for his Supreme Court nominee, Judge John G. Roberts Jr.

White House officials are quietly relieved that an attack against Judge Roberts last week backfired, forcing NARAL Pro-Choice America to withdraw a television ad that accused him of supporting violence against abortion clinics.

“The ad inoculates Roberts from any further attacks that seek to distort his record, it delegitimizes NARAL as a political organization for the foreseeable future, and it embarrasses the Democratic leadership, whose silence was deafening when it came to the ad,” said a Republican strategist close to the White House.

Administration officials hope a similar overreach is under way by another Bush critic, Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq last year. Ever since Mrs. Sheehan began protesting outside Mr. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, earlier this month, White House aides worried that she might inflict significant political damage on Mr. Bush.

But those worries have begun to dissipate as Mrs. Sheehan’s rhetoric has grown increasingly strident. After praising the president last year for meeting with her, she now denounces him as a killer who should be impeached.

She also has demanded that Israel get out of “Palestine” and announced that she is refusing to pay her federal income taxes. Even liberal press outlets, while still lavishing favorable coverage on Mrs. Sheehan, have begun to question her about ties to left-wing groups.

“The same anger that motivated Democrats in the past has now overtaken their better judgment,” said a second Republican strategist. “If one thing is clear from the last five years, those that underestimate this president do so at their own peril.”

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