- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2001

President Bush is effectively claiming for himself important issues that Democrats long have thought belonged to them, the latest bipartisan "Battleground" poll has found.
"Bush has started to successfully co-opt several key Democratic issues, including education and keeping America prosperous," Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said in discussing the April 22-24 survey of 1,000 registered voters that she and Republican Ed Goeas released yesterday.
Equally encouraging for the new president, Mr. Goeas said, voters by a 58 percent to 28 percent margin approve of the job Mr. Bush is doing. Moreover, by an even bigger margin, 68 percent to 18 percent, voters approve of him personally. "This means that 54 percent of voters give him both high job and personal approval ratings," he said.
However, Miss Lake said that despite Mr. Bushs strong showing with voters, the Democrats prospects of retaking the Senate look good — much better than their chances of recapturing the House, where reapportionment may net Republicans several new districts, including that of Rep. David E. Bonior of Michigan, the Democratic whip.
Whether voters continue to approve of Mr. Bushs job performance, however, "could be very important" in determining who controls Congress after next years elections, Miss Lake said. If the presidents approval numbers plummet, then voters will take out their dissatisfaction on Republican senators and House members, she said.
Yet Mr. Bush has managed to co-opt traditional Democratic issues such as education, presenting problems for the Democratic Party. In what she calls "an alarming note for Democrats," Miss Lake said the president "is particularly strong on education."
The poll shows that among voters, Mr. Bush beat the Democrats in Congress on the issue of education by 49 percent to 37 percent.
Mr. Bushs support on handling the economy also has hurt Democrats, who have struggled to get out their message since losing the presidency. "On the economic message, we are struggling to find a way to do that with sufficient volume when we dont have the presidency," Miss Lake said. "We have an economic program, but we dont have the economic message."
On the issue of keeping the nation prosperous, voters by 49 percent to 35 percent said Mr. Bush could be trusted more than the Democrats in Congress.
The poll shows Democrats have an advantage of four percentage points when voters are asked whether they will vote for a Democrat or Republican for Congress next year.
However, reapportionment could damage Democratic prospects in the House. "Our poll suggests that, even with that 'generic ballot advantage, the House can be very, very competitive because of reapportionment," Miss Lake said. "If it were the same Congress we had in 2000, wed probably take back the House, but reapportionment will move districts out of Democratic areas into Republican areas."
Analysts in both parties are predicting that reapportionment could lead to a Democratic loss of four to six seats to Republicans.
Compounding problems for Democrats, said Mr. Goeas, is that Mr. Bush is doing well with voters on issues such as education, Social Security and health care — preventing Democrats from taking the offensive on areas where Republicans traditionally have been seen as weak.

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