Polls Hold Problems for Bush, Clinton

Only 28 percent of Americans say they approve of the job being done by President Bush, a poll published over the weekend shows. Meanwhile, the numbers show that Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York might be less successful in a general presidential election than two of her Democratic rivals.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The president has declared parts of Kansas a disaster area, which frees up federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts. That is one of the powers of the presidency. The veto power is another. And the president is using both even as the new poll shows his approval ratings at an all-time low. Let's get some analysis, as we often do on Monday mornings, from NPR's Cokie Roberts. Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Twenty-eight percent approval rating for the president, according to Newsweek. How's that affect the president when he's negotiating with Congress over a war-spending bill?

ROBERTS: It doesn't seem to affect him much. It's the worst rating since Jimmy Carter in 1979, the worst in the generation. But the president's supporters continue to say that he wants a clean bill with no timetable for withdrawal of American troops and no benchmarks for the Iraqi government. Now, he's unlikely to get that. And yesterday in Iowa, Senator Clinton told the Associated Press that for the first time there are efforts to try to negotiate with the president and she's seeing some light there. She says she'll support whatever the Democratic leadership comes up with. But it's not clear right now what that is. There seems to be movement towards benchmarks for the Iraqi government but no binding consequences if they don't meet them.

INSKEEP: Hillary Clinton not doing so great in the polls, either.

ROBERTS: Well, that's true. That same Newsweek polls shows that both Senator Obama and former Senator Edwards beat Republicans by larger margins than she does. But Steve, she whips them among the Democrats. And other polls also show that and show that she's especially strong among Democratic women. And of course somebody has to win the primaries before they get into a contest against the Republicans.

There's a long way to go. Hillary Clinton was in Iowa over the weekend. But with the big states now having these early primaries, there's lots of flying around the country. She's said that it's hard on her campaign. She was very frank about that, that this is a new strategy to have to devise with New York and California so early in the process.

But look, it's also hard on these candidates to be in the United States Senate. Having to vote on Iraq over and over again, as they are likely to do, is a problem as they're out there on the campaign trail because there are a lot of voters they're going to make unhappy by just casting their votes.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about other candidates getting into the race. I keep urging you to get in, Cokie, and you keep…

ROBERTS: I know, Steve…

INSKEEP: …pushing it aside.

ROBERTS: You know, the minute that would happen, you wouldn't like me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: We'd go after you. We'd go after you big time.

ROBERTS: That's right.

INSKEEP: In any case, there are some possibilities of other candidates coming into the race. What's happening there?

ROBERTS: Well, it's mainly on the Republican side, although Democrats do keep talking about Al Gore. But on the Republican side you do see a higher rate of dissatisfaction about the cast of characters that are currently in the race.

And I don't think that the debate last week among Republicans did anything to encourage Republican voters. So there's lots of conversation about others getting in, although it is getting late. The name you keep hearing and does seem to be likely is that Fred Thompson, the former Senator, current actor, would get into the contest. And when you add his name into polls, he does very well.

What's interesting is how John McCain continues to have big problems, and Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, seems to be going nowhere, according to the polls. Even though he raised a whole lot of money in the first quarter, he's still very low on the polls. And a huge percentage in an ABC poll said they wouldn't vote for him, no matter what - the highest percentage of any candidate - even though only a tiny percent said that they knew what his positions were. So that seems to have something to do with his Mormon faith, which is the only thing most people know about him.

It's a dispirited Republican Party. When you've gotten this Newsweek poll, 71 percent saying they're dissatisfied with the direction the country is going in, that's very hard on the incumbent party.

INSKEEP: Okay, thanks very much. That's analysis on this Monday morning from NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts, also known in some quarters as Rebecca Roberts's mom. She's filling in, of course, this morning. And you'll hear her in just a moment telling you what program you're listening to.

(Soundbite of music)

REBECCA ROBERTS, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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