As a followup to the Presidential Approval And The Midterms post, which looked at historical numbers, Gallup has an important summary out today on reaction to the bomb plot, which I (and others) have been highlighting.
Public confidence that the United States and its allies are winning the war against terrorism does not appear to have been boosted by the recently thwarted terrorist attack in London. Only about a third of Americans say the United States is winning, with the majority of the rest saying neither the United States nor the terrorists are winning the "war", a pattern similar to that which has been found for much of the last two years.
An analysis of the recent history of Americans' attitudes about the war against terror shows that optimism about winning against terrorism is highly related to major military offensives. When the United States invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, and when the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003, the perception that the United States and its allies were winning the war against terrorism shot up well above the 50% mark. In both instances, however, this high level of optimism soon dissipated, and the data from Gallup's most recent update show that less than half of Americans say the United States and its allies are winning, more typical of the pattern found since 9/11.
Two separate points are colluding to stall the political benefit of the WoT™ to the WH (and by extention, Republicans). One is that there is now a major separation in American's mind between Iraq and the WoT™. They are not perceived to be the same thing.
Nor is the Iraq War popular.
Opposition among Americans to the war in Iraq has reached a new high, with only about a third of respondents saying they favor it, according to a poll released Monday
Nor will the Iraq War be the source of "optimism about winning against terrorism [that] is highly related to major military offensives" because there's none on the horizon.
The scond strain on Bush and the Republican's fall strategery is the idea that we are not winning either war. For those that believe the two are linked, defeat-averse Americnas are discouraged (those would be Bush supporters) because falilure in iraq is failure in the WoT™. For those who don't believe the two are linked (and that would be Bush disapprovers, who are most of the country), Bush has to deal with the anger at having Iraq interfere with the WoT™ (see the NY Times/CBS poll). For the waverers and swing voters and low-information voters who win and lose elections, there's a third problem. As Dick Morris said to Sean Hannity, "If you want to be the war President, you have to win the war." That's where the Gallup analysis comes in.
This basic pattern is little changed over the last two years. In particular, despite the fact that a potential terrorist attack was thwarted by authorities in London in recent weeks, the poll shows no signs that Americans have become more convinced that the United States and its allies are winning the war against terrorism.
Since the Republicans have accomplished little else, and since Bush and Americans alike have rightly made Iraq and terrorism the centerpiece of the Bush and Republican fall campaign, the idea that Iraq will work to R advantage is trying to make lemonade of out lemons, and failing at that, too. it's not even clear terrorism helps R's, and Iraq clearly does not. The Rs are therefore tasked to stay the course with a war president who is losing two separate wars.
Of all the words that President Bush used at his news conference this week to defend his policies in Iraq, the one that did not pass his lips was "progress."
It's why McCain had to pull back and say "I'm loyal, but I'm not stupid."This is not going to help Republicans keep the Congress in November, not even with low-information voters.