Running short of political capital

The numbers don't look good for President Bush, said Richard Stevenson in The New York Times. When he was re-elected seven months ago, a Times/CBS News poll found that 51 percent of Americans approved of his job performance. Now that figure is down to 42 percent—far below the 60 percent that Bill Clinton rated at this point in his second term and Ronald Reagan's 59 percent. Just 37 percent approve of how Bush is handling Iraq, and a mere 25 percent think he's doing a good job on Social Security. Bush is no 'œlame duck,' at least not yet. But having bloodied his nose a few times, Democrats now realize that they will 'œpay little or no price for defying him.' Republican congressmen, mindful of their own re-election campaigns in the fall, are not taking on unpopular battles. The president's 'œbest opportunity to drive the agenda may be past.'

Bush's problems are easy enough to understand, said Ryan Lizza in The New Republic. Now that the GOP has achieved its goal of regaining the White House, the coalition of social and economic conservatives that got them there is fraying. That saps the president's power on Capitol Hill. 'œBut the most important explanation for Bush's problems is what might be called his bait and switch.' He won re-election in 2004 mainly because he convinced Americans that he could keep them safe from terrorism. No one voted for him because they wanted to overhaul Social Security. Now, though, Social Security has eclipsed national security, and Bush is coming across like 'œa traveling salesman hawking an unpopular idea in jargon-laden phrases.' By letting his electoral success go to his head, Bush has furnished a textbook case of why presidents' 'œsecond terms are often failures.'

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