- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2006

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Despite President Bush’s flagging poll numbers and the departure of his once-loyal conservative base, Republican candidates are still flooding the White House Office of Political Affairs with phones calls asking the president to drop in for a fundraiser and photo-op.

“We don’t have enough time on the president’s schedule to meet all the demands I get,” said office director Sara Taylor. “I get calls on a daily basis for help from the president for fundraising.”

The president already has been dashing across the campaign trail, hitting 15 fundraising events so far in the 2006 election cycle and bringing in $12.4 million for House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates. He plans stops soon with Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Rep. Geoff Davis of Kentucky.

“Both he and the vice president have done more events by this time in the cycle than they did in 2002,” Miss Taylor said of the last midterms, when Republicans bucked precedent and picked up congressional seats. “They’re actually ahead of where they were in ‘02, and the demand has not let up.”

But some political pollsters and election analysts are beginning to predict Republicans will flee from the president in this year’s elections, especially because of his plummeting approval rating, which reached a record low yesterday at 31 percent in a USA Today-Gallup Poll. The poll found just 52 percent of conservatives and 68 percent of Republicans approved of Mr. Bush’s performance.

Pollsters say the continued stalemate in Iraq, coupled with high gas prices and gridlock in Congress over issues important to conservatives, will force some seeking re-election to abandon Mr. Bush.

“He’s really lost the base, so many are going to try to move away, and they will because, right now, he’s not even solid with the Republican base,” said pollster John Zogby.

Some election analysts say Republicans could easily lose 25 seats in the House, and possibly as many as 45. If they lost just 15, Democrats would take control, and party leaders already have pledged to initiate numerous probes and inquiries into the Bush administration.

Democrats are seeking to nationalize the midterm elections, which typically draw fewer voters to the polls and often revolve around local issues. Already, top Democrats have blamed the Republican-led Congress for the debacle over immigration, high gas prices and what they call “a culture of corruption” in Washington.

But many Republicans, especially those in solid conservative districts where the president did well in 2000 and 2004, will stick with him this election, Mr. Zogby said. “You’re going to find all these folks making a judgment on the basis of what’s good in their district, not necessarily what’s good inside the Beltway. That’s how they keep their majority.”

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