- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 13, 2006

President Bush and the Republicans struggled to halt their decline in the polls last week, but the Democrats had troubles, too, including higher unfavorable ratings from the voters and a fight over their congressional election strategy.

While Mr. Bush’s job-approval score has fallen to 31 percent, according to the Gallup Poll, and Republicans were trailing by at least 12 points in the generic congressional election surveys, voters were similarly divided about the Democratic Party.

Gallup reported late last week that 45 percent of Americans polled had an unfavorable view of the Democrats versus 48 percent who had a favorable view. Republicans, however, were rated more negatively, with 58 percent of respondents holding an unfavorable view of them, compared to 36 percent who were favorable.

“Neither party enjoys a strongly favorable image or is given a whole lot of credit for the way it is handling the nation’s business. Fewer than half of Americans think either the Republican or Democratic Party is offering solutions to the nation’s problems,” said Gallup analyst Lydia Saad.

Even so, Gallup found that most Republicans said their party was doing a good or very good job of leading the country, despite a widespread perception that much of the public’s dissatisfaction was coming from the Republicans’ own political base which was disenchanted with Congress’s handling of everything from immigration to the budget deficit.

“The Republican Party is generally perceived as staying true to its core Republican values — 59 percent of Americans, including 80 percent of Republicans, say it is doing a good job of this — but beyond this, the GOP gets poor marks for doing the people’s business in Washington,” according to Gallup.

Meanwhile, the Democrats were in the midst of a bitter strategy feud about how to finance this year’s midterm campaigns in a way that focuses the party’s resources on the Republican Party’s weakest candidates, in addition to a continuing debate over what it’s campaign message should be.

Some Democratic leaders here, as well as some state party chairmen, are criticizing the 50-state party staffing strategy that is being implemented by Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

These critics are saying that Democrats should concentrate its funds in states where there are competitive congressional races that could give their party control of the House rather than placing party organizers in hard-core Republican states.

New Hampshire Democratic chairman Kathy Sullivan wants Mr. Dean to pursue a middle course.

“Putting staff in the 50 states is important, but we should look at whether there is money spent on telemarketing and consulting that could be used for more targeted spending in the state races that are very competitive this fall,” she said.

Ohio Democratic chairman Chris Redfern said the Dean strategy is the right one for long-term party building. “The DNC is not in the business of running congressional elections. It’s in the business of building a national party,” he said.

Mr. Dean’s 50-state plan has ignited criticism of his heavy spending so early in the election cycle. This worries Democrats who fear the disputes send a bad image to the voters of a party that isn’t ready to govern.

“If the Democrats would spend less time beating each other up and more time beating up the Republicans, we’d be a lot better off,” Mr. Redfern said.

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