President Bush's Ratings Hit New Low in Poll
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.
LUKE BURBANK, host:
And I'm Luke Burbank.
In a few minutes - research has emerged, Madeleine, that today - today might be the most depressing day of the year.
BRAND: You're kidding. Even more depressing than Groundhog Day?
BURBANK: Yes. Amazingly so.
BRAND: I can't believe it. OK. Wow, we'll get to that in a moment. But first, as President Bush prepares to deliver his State of the Union message tomorrow night, his approval ratings have plummeted to the lowest point of his presidency. That's from a new poll done by The Washington Post and ABC News.
And joining us now is NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving. Hi, Ron.
RON ELVING: Hello, Madeleine. Hello, Luke.
BURBANK: Hey, Ron.
BRAND: So that must make for a depressing day for the president. Tell us about these numbers.
ELVING: Well, in one sense they match the previous low point for President Bush. The approval number in the Post-ABC poll is 33 percent, with 65 percent disapproving - very few undecided, as you can see. They've been there before, but just down to 33 before.
You know, in another sense, they're actually much worse than that. Because those who strongly disapprove, that number is now up over 50 percent, and that intensity is highly unusual. You have a four to one ratio, practically, among those who - excuse me, a three to one ratio among those who strongly disapprove compared to those who strongly approve.
So obviously, the biggest factor in this is the war in Iraq. But there's also an overwhelmingly rejection of the president's handling of the war, specifically, and his plan for what's next.
BURBANK: So, Ron, in tomorrow night's big speech, is there any way that the president can really stand up there and talk about the State of our Union and not talk about Iraq?
ELVING: Of course, he's going to talk about Iraq. The question, I suppose, is how much will he talk about the opposition to his particular plans for Iraq? And there, I think, he has to acknowledge it, but he'll do it in terms that cast his own resistance to public opinion as courage, as strength of will and principle. He'll put himself forward as a champion of doing the right thing even when all about you seem to be losing faith in that course of action.
BRAND: And, Ron, over the weekend we had Hillary Clinton, Sam Brownback, Bill Richardson all announce their candidacies for president in '08, joining a bunch of others - so many I can't even name them all right now. Is this unprecedented, that there are so many people running for president so early?
ELVING: Yes, it is. Particularly so many people who really matter, people who are major figures in the potential field for the next cycle. And, you know, you might think at this point that it's because of some of these bad numbers we've been talking about it, that perhaps all these candidates are being lured in because there is so much dissatisfaction - not only, I should say, with President Bush, but with how things are going in the country as a whole.
Post-ABC poll shows that only 26 percent - one in four - think that things are going well or are the right track, going in the right direction in the United States. So perhaps that would be encouraging people into the pool of candidates.
But, you know, I think it's actually more a matter of internal factors within the two parties. The more candidates get in, the more the other potential candidates feel like they can't wait. And we surely saw that with Hillary, kind of jumping the gun last weekend and getting in a lot sooner than people expected her to.
BRAND: And it also means they're going to all have to raise a lot more money, right? Because they're campaigning longer?
ELVING: They're campaigning longer. They're looking for ways to campaign on the Internet that are cheaper than campaigning on television. They're doing a lot of things that they haven't had to do in the past because they're starting so early, they have to think of new ways to go after people. You can't go out and start buttonholing people on the street when even the Iowa caucus is still most of a year away. I think it's about 355, 360 days until the - Iowa caucus is next January.
BURBANK: I think our engineer Leo Del Aguila has actually announced his candidacy, which is interesting to watch.
(Soundbite of laughter)
BURBANK: Ron, there's another poll that just came out today from the Pew Center and NPR News, which looks at the state of bipartisanship in the country. What are they finding?
ELVING: People like the idea of bipartisanship, Luke, and they like the idea that their politicians will have flexibility. But, you know, they also urge their own partisans to stand firm, and they don't like to see their politicians compromise with other politicians they don't like. And they also don't want to see their politicians compromise on the issues that they care most about. So we get a little bit of an idea of how difficult bipartisanship really is.
BRAND: Okay. And Ron, we should also note that later today as part of NPR's Crossing the Divide series, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED will carry more on the poll. And we'll hear more from Andrew Kohut. He's head of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. And Ron Elving, NPR senior Washington editor, always a pleasure. Thank you.
ELVING: Thank you both.