Michael: Bush Hits New Low. Drags Kyl With Him?Bush is polling at an all time low for a second term Presidents with an approval rating of just 36%. Disapproval of Bush's handling of the Presidency is now at 58%. So much for mandates.
This is the lowest approval rating of any second term President in the 20th century, and it bodes ill for the GOP's chances in 2006 and 2008 unless the party starts to slink shamefacedly away from Bush and his policies. Already, a major contender for the 2008 nomination, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, is publicly repudiating Bush's Iraq policy and comparing Iraq to Vietnam. Bush's major policy initiatives, such as Social Security plan and immigration reform, appear dead in the water and one doesn't hear any blather about 'spending the capital he earned in the election' flowing from the White House these days. One wonders if Bush will have the swing to pass anything other than log rollers and pork barrels for the next three years.
Here in Arizona, a bellweather race will be Senator Kyl's 2006 re-election bid. Putative challenger Jim Pederson is already polling at 26% to Kyl's 44% with a large and juicy undecided column, and Pederson hasn't even formally announced or begun to campaign. Any time an incumbent is below 50% against a challenger this early it's a big danger signal. Pederson lacks name recongnition, but his considerable fundraising potential (he has about 6 million bucks worth of good will chits to call in among Arizona's elected Democrats) and his personal wealth will ensure that particular impediment doesn't remain a problem for long. The polling indicates that Pederson has surged 19 points among independents in recent weeks, who are the major movers in Bush's softening support (over 70% of independents now disapprove of Bush).
Kyl's record will make it easy to paint him as a sychopant and yes-man to Bush, the Neo Con pollyannas, and the religious right. With Bush sliding toward bottoming out into his 'base' (my guess is he'll wind up in the low 30's, possibly lower if Iraq ends up as a theocratic state aligned with Iran, as now seems likely), Kyl seems suprisingly vulnerable to being dragged down with Bush in 2006.