- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2006

President Bush’s series of speeches on the war on terror has boosted the issue’s profile and helped recapture Republicans’ lead when voters are surveyed on whom they trust to handle terrorism.

Republicans now lead Democrats by 48 percent to 41 percent among registered voters in a new ABC News poll, a flip from a seven-point Democrat advantage in the same poll last month, and 16 percent now choose terrorism as their top voting issue — a gain of five percentage points.

Analyzing the poll on ABC’s Web site, its polling director, Gary Langer, said Republicans’ edge on handling terrorism is far less than the 35-point lead they had in 2002, when they won control of the Senate by bashing Democrats for blocking creation of the Department of Homeland Security over union rules.

But he said Republicans have made gains among independents, who are now split on which party they trust more on the issue.

And though it’s just a trickle, the president’s approval numbers also are ticking higher.

An NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday put Mr. Bush’s job-approval rating at 42 percent — an increase of five percentage points since June, though still below a comfortable level for a president heading into a midterm election.

Both polls still showed Democrats with a sizable advantage when people are asked which party they want to control Congress — nine percentage points in the NBC-Journal survey and eight points in the ABC poll.

The ABC poll was taken Sept. 5-7 of 1,003 adults, including 863 registered voters, and had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points among registered voters. The NBC-Journal survey of 1,009 Americans was taken Sept. 8-11 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

The polls come as Mr. Bush delivers a series of speeches trying to lay out his goals in the war on terror. He has tried to put a face on the terrorists, has released new information about attacks that have been thwarted by good intelligence, and has called for Congress to give official approval to military trials for terror detainees and to the National Security Agency’s terrorist-surveillance program.

Mr. Bush’s speeches have also stiffened the spines of Republicans in Congress, and top Republicans have said the details of thwarted plots have given them something concrete they can take home to tell constituents.

“There’s been extraordinary successes in this war and a lot of them have occurred outside of plain public view,” said White House press secretary Tony Snow.

“It’s useful and important to provide an update, and obviously, on an issue that continues to be right at the top of everybody’s concerns.”

He said the president’s speeches have been able to give another view to balance out the repeated images of bombings and killings in Iraq and elsewhere.

“We feel confident that when people get a full picture, they’re not only going to have confidence in the president, but they’re going to want to support him and give him the tools to fight the war on terror,” Mr. Snow said.

The ABC poll found that Iraq is still a weak point for Republicans — those voters who put it as a top concern clearly favor Democrats.

But the poll showed Mr. Bush is still winning some key arguments, such as the 57 percent who agreed with his position that Iraq is part of the war on terror.

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