- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Nearly half of Americans say President Bush is “in over his head,” according to a new survey by Democracy Corps, the polling and strategy firm founded by James Carville and two other key Democratic strategists.

Mr. Carville, Bob Shrum and Stanley Greenberg told reporters yesterday that not only is the post-September 11 boost for Mr. Bush over, but the president is arguably in worse position now than in the summer of 2001.

“He is convincing people that he is uncertain about what to do,” Mr. Shrum said. “He is at one and the same time blustering and threatening and shooting off his mouth, but on the other hand, doesn’t have any idea what to do.”

Democrats on Capitol Hill, meanwhile, called on Mr. Bush to fire someone in his administration over the failure to anticipate the aftermath of war in Iraq and blamed the administration for putting American troops in danger through poor planning.

“We can’t allow these bureaucrats to get off while these young people are paying such a heavy price,” said Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, a Marine Corps veteran and senior member of the House Appropriations Committee.

The Democracy Corps survey shows the nation is open to Democrats’ charges. A majority of voters no longer trust Mr. Bush on the question of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and 54 percent said he “does not have a plan to win the peace and bring American troops home.”

Republicans’ own polling suggests they have some work to do. A Winston Group poll taken for House Republicans and released last week found voters believe the nation is on the wrong track by a 51-37 margin.

House Republican Conference chairman Rep. Deborah Pryce of Ohio said that presents a challenge for the party to better communicate what they have done — something conference spokesman Greg Crist said they can do by pointing to two tax cuts.

“If I were [the Democrats], I wouldn’t want to be the party that hangs its electoral hopes on the economy tanking,” Mr. Crist said.

Also, a memo from Republican National Committee spokesman Jim Dyke last week said the last two presidents to win re-election had lower job-approval ratings at this same point in their terms. President Reagan polled 47 percent approval in 1983, while President Clinton in 1995 polled 44 percent.

The Democracy Corps poll shows Mr. Bush with a 53 percent job-approval rating.

Matthew Dowd, the president’s pollster, predicted in April that the president’s numbers would slip. Republicans say that’s just what these new polls show.

But the Democracy Corps trio said Mr. Bush actually has slipped below where he was before the terrorist attacks.

“By almost any measure, the president today is weaker than he was before September 11,” Mr. Carville said.

Compared with a Democracy Corps poll taken before September 11, Mr. Bush has fallen 10 points on honesty and trustworthiness, and Republicans have slipped 17 percentage points versus Democrats on deficits, and 9 points on the economy.

Also, 48 percent said the description “seems in over his head” describes Mr. Bush well — something the Democratic trio yesterday said was reminiscent of how voters probably saw Republican President Herbert Hoover.

The poll was taken after rebate checks from the child tax credit went out and after the president’s speech laying out his view on Iraq.

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