- The Washington Times - Monday, November 8, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Voters say President Bush’s first priority after winning re-election should be resolving the situation in Iraq, where the fighting is growing more intense.

They also want Mr. Bush to cut the deficit, which has ballooned on his watch, according to an Associated Press poll taken right after the election.

The voters’ concerns stood in contrast to the priorities Mr. Bush cited after he defeated the Democratic nominee, Sen. John Kerry. Mr. Bush pledged to aggressively pursue major changes in Social Security, tax laws and medical-malpractice awards.

“I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it,” Mr. Bush said a day after becoming the first president in 68 years to win re-election and gain seats in both the House and Senate.

After a campaign dominated by discussion of Iraq and terrorism, national security issues are at the top of voters’ concerns along with the economy. Voters were asked to pick from a list of issues in the AP poll that included Iraq, terrorism, the economy, unemployment, health care, education and taxes.

Many voters on Election Day indicated they were also concerned about moral values — an option not given by the AP poll.

Some 27 percent of respondents named Iraq as the top priority for the president’s second term, ahead of issues such as terrorism, the economy and health care.

Republicans ranked terrorism first on the list, followed by Iraq and the economy as priorities for Mr. Bush. Democrats were most likely to name Iraq, followed by the economy and health care, while independents picked Iraq and then terrorism, according to the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs.

“He has to go 500 percent in Iraq,” said Ruth Shoemaker, an independent and a retiree from Chula Vista, Calif. “That’s why I voted for the president.”

Seven in 10 voters, including a majority of Democrats, would prefer that U.S. troops stay in Iraq until the country is stable, instead of having them leave immediately.

On the domestic front, Mr. Bush says his plans to overhaul the tax laws would be “revenue-neutral” and would not cut taxes. Throughout the past year, however, he has urged Congress to make earlier tax cuts permanent.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office now sees $2.3 trillion in accumulated deficits over the next 10 years. That does not include the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Given the choice between balancing the budget and cutting taxes, voters chose balancing the budget by 66 percent to 31 percent. Just over half of Republicans as well as most Democrats and independents felt that way.

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