- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2002

President Bush's high job-approval rating will benefit Republicans in November's midterm elections, a survey released yesterday suggests, and it appears to be fueling record-setting fund raising by the Republican National Committee.
Mr. Bush "will sustain high job-approval ratings throughout the 2002 elections," stated a report by the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, which evaluated spikes in approval ratings for other presidents in the past 30 years.
"George W. Bush is now the Republican brand," said Neil Newhouse, a partner at the polling firm. "He has raised partisan affiliation. He has helped Republicans on the generic ballot. On Election Day, it's going to translate into higher Republican turnout, and that's what counts in midterm elections."
Republicans want to increase their six-seat advantage in the House and erase Democrats' one-seat Senate lead in November.
On the fund-raising front, the Republican National Committee raised a record $31.7 million in the first three months of this year, compared with the Democratic National Committee, which raised approximately $26 million.
Of the RNC's $31.7 million, about $26 million came in the form of hard money capped donations that can be spent on a range of political activities. The DNC raised about $9 million in hard money.
More than half of the DNC's first-quarter take was in uncapped soft-money donations, which the new campaign-finance law outlaws after this fall's elections, for its new party headquarters.
"They're doing a good job of building their building, but not a very good job of building their party," said RNC spokesman Kevin Sheridan, who says he believes the president's popularity has driven the party's fund-raising efforts.
But DNC spokeswoman Maria Cardona pointed out that the DNC had a record-breaking first quarter in terms of direct-mail fund raising, which generated about $8 million of its hard money, as it works to expand its small-dollar donor list.
"We'll be able to continue doing that because the new technology we've implemented is allowing us to communicate more effectively every day with our grass-roots supporters," Miss Cardona said.
A CBS News poll released Wednesday put Mr. Bush's job approval at 77 percent. A CNN/ Gallup/USA Today poll last week showed his job approval at 79 percent.
Bounces in presidential job approval during times of national crisis usually last no longer than 40 weeks. That means his job approval should fall to its previous level in the low 50s by late June.
Such a drop would be better news for congressional Democrats. Historically, the party that holds the White House loses congressional seats in the midterm elections.
But Public Opinion Strategies said in its report that Mr. Bush's job approval is likely to remain high through November because much of the spike was based on his "personal strength and sense of leadership," rather than the success of his policies.
"These ratings are solid as a rock," the report said. "Bush enjoys stunningly high 'strong approval' ratings across political-party lines." The firm added that its projections "may portend a stronger showing for Republicans than is traditionally had for the party in power."
Democrats say congressional races will be decided individually and that Mr. Bush's popularity did not help Republican candidates win governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey in the fall.
"There were no coattail effects for those Republican candidates. I don't see how that would be so different come November," said Tovah Ravitz-Meehan, spokeswoman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Mrs. Ravitz-Meehan said Democratic candidates are not running against Mr. Bush.
Mr. Bush's war-related popularity has translated into many small-dollar donations to the Republicans from average voters across the country, Mr. Sheridan said.
Mr. Newhouse said Mr. Bush's job approval is likely to slip a little in the coming months but will remain high enough to help Republican candidates. "He has sustained around 80 percent approval ratings for six months, which is extraordinary," Mr. Newhouse said.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced that it raised a record $12 million in the first quarter of 2002. And it has raised nearly $46 million overall for the 2002 cycle.
The DCCC has $16.5 million cash on hand at the end of the first quarter, compared with about $28 million at the same point in the 2000 election cycle. Committee spokeswoman Kim Rubey said this is because there were a number of special elections and that funds were spent on redistricting efforts.

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