In Diehard Kentucky, President Bush Losing Support
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
We're going to listen now to some Independent voters. They're an important group because the party they pick in any given election generally wins. And since May, President Bush's approval rating has fallen almost 20 points among Independent voters who say they generally vote Republican. It's a big concern for the president's party in Congress. Andrew Kohut of the Pew Center for the People and the Press identifies a very important part of this group as `upbeats.' They are generally optimistic, relatively young, well-educated and prosperous. They have a favorable view of government and business, but now some of them are not so upbeat about the president. NPR's Linda Wertheimer went to Louisville to talk with some of those upbeats.
LINDA WERTHEIMER reporting:
On Wednesday night on the east side of Louisville, lots of people are in church.
(Soundbite of rehearsal)
Choir: (Singing) ...on the news that he came to...
WERTHEIMER: At the Beargrass Christian Church in the suburb of St. Matthew's, the primary grades choir was upstairs rehearsing for the Christmas pageant. Downstairs we met with some of their parents. Like many of the people we met in Louisville, this group has doubts about the conduct of the war in Iraq as well as other issues. But Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath crystalized their concerns. Susan Vance, who works for Norton Healthcare, described it this way.
Ms. SUSAN VANCE (Louisville Resident): I think it's like a perfect storm that any one event that's occurred in our country we could take. But when they all come together at the same time--you know, two wars, the terrorism threats, Katrina, the lack of trust with things like the Valerie Plame incident, the gas prices, the economy, people dissatisfied with global warming, things like that--I just think that it's become untenable.
WERTHEIMER: Susan Vance says she's an Independent. She didn't vote for President Bush but voted twice for his father. Mitch Dadow(ph) is an accountant for Louisville Gas & Electric. He did vote for President Bush in 2000 but began to worry about the war in Iraq almost immediately.
Mr. MITCH DADOW (Louisville Resident): I'm seeing Iraq becoming another Vietnam. I remember when I was in high school, I was just under the age where I had to mess with the draft and was very happy because I was a year or two too young. And all the feelings that I had back then in high school I was having now. I was seeing this terrible quagmire that I just don't think we're ever going to get out of.
WERTHEIMER: Elizabeth Wessel(ph) is vice president for foster care at the Kentucky Baptist Home for Children. She worries about the war but says her problems with the president are more domestic; that he didn't move quickly to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Ms. ELIZABETH WESSEL (Louisville Resident): The war was a huge piece, and this sealed it for me. This has been more tragic to me because it's right here at home. And in my line of work that I deal with, so many foster kids, and I deal with a great deal of poverty and the fact that he could basically turn his back on the poverty-stricken population is just appalling to me.
WERTHEIMER: Elizabeth Wessel says she voted for President Bush because of his family values.
Ms. WESSEL: I think the one thing that I was looking for was a president that had strong values and high morals, and I think Bush has done that. I mean, you know, we don't see him having extramarital affairs, and he seems to be committed to his family.
WERTHEIMER: Do you still think of him as having that sort of strong values?
Ms. WESSEL: Only for himself and his family. I think they're very self-serving. I don't think it's for the common people. I don't think it's for the minorities. I think it's for the wealthy, white population.
WERTHEIMER: Downtown we met with a group from Leadership Louisville, which does civic leadership training with young business and professional people. Our group was mostly in their 30s. Brian Merkley helps run a family-owned jewelry business. He does not think the president deliberately misled anyone on weapons of mass destruction, but when none were found, doubts began to seep in. Then when Hurricane Katrina happened, he says he heard one message from the administration when something else was happening.
Mr. BRIAN MERKLEY (Louisville Resident): In front of the cameras we were being fed, as an audience, that, `Everything's fine down there. We're taking care of it. Everything's in good shape.' Well, you flip to Fox or to CNN and you see the travesty of what's happening. It creates the perception that we're not being perfectly honest with the public, and I think that that's what came out of it, the lack of trust in the administration.
WERTHEIMER: Brian Merkley says he voted twice for President Bush because he ran on reaching across party lines to the center. But, Merkley says, that has not happened. That's also a concern for Tom O'Brien(ph). He is a trial attorney who also voted twice for President Bush. O'Brien says he is a fiscal conservative but moderate to conservative on social issues. He raised something that also disturbs several other people in the group, the Republican Party and the religious right.
Mr. TOM O'BRIEN (Louisville Resident): I think the president went wrong most recently with pandering to the right-wing elements of the Republican Party, case in point, the Harriet Miers nomination. The rapidity with which she was cast aside before she even really got a chance to go before the hearings--yea or nay--just showed a weakness in character for me on the president. And I think, it seems to me, that that decision was made to keep the right wing of the party in check.
WERTHEIMER: My thanks to the parents from the Beargrass Christian Church and to Leadership Louisville. Linda Wertheimer, NPR News, Washington.
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