We've presented the polls. We've talked about the failures. And the narrative continues...
President Bush's State of the Union address on Tuesday night marks the opening of a midterm election year eagerly anticipated by Democrats and fraught with worries for Republicans, whose hopes in November may depend in large part on how successfully Bush can turn around his troubled presidency.
After his reelection victory in 2004, Bush often pointed out that he would never again be on a ballot as a candidate. But the coming year in many ways represents another national campaign for the president, aimed at preserving the gains his party has made in the past five years, as well as rehabilitating a reputation that has come under brutal assault from the opposition in recent months.
His reputation (that of a failure) has been trashed by his own actions, not by 'assault from the opposition'. He's been a failure since his bidness days in Texas (see Molly Ivins). he's strongly disliked by 38-40% of the population and tolerated by another 40%, though just barely. And all discussion of current scandals, impeachment, etc should be seen through the prism of an unpopular President who is the most polarizing in polling history.
Tuesday's speech, with its massive prime-time audience, may be the most important forum Bush has all year to try to seize the initiative from the Democrats and frame the election season on his terms. But he will be standing in the House as a far less formidable politician than when he stood on the same podium a year ago. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Bush with a lower approval rating than any postwar president at the start of his sixth year in office -- with the exception of Richard M. Nixon, who was crippled by Watergate.
Bush's approval rating now stands at 42 percent, down from 46 percent at the beginning of the year, although still three percentage points higher than the low point of his presidency last November.
The poll also shows that the public prefers the direction Democrats in Congress would take the country as opposed to the path set by the president, that Americans trust Democrats over Republicans to address the country's biggest problems and that they strongly favor Democrats over Republicans in their vote for the House.
And what matters is Bush's inability to either lead or heal. In fact, his greatest talent seems to be making thing worse. he'll get a chance to prove it yet again with Iraq, the economy and health care between now and November. To go against his own personal history and instinct is Bush's real midterm challenge.