Paul touched on this story yesterday, and it's interesting enough to take another look.
According to the new NEWSWEEK Poll, the public's approval of Bush has sunk to 28 percent, an all-time low for this president in our poll, and a point lower than Gallup recorded for his father at Bush Sr.'s nadir. The last president to be this unpopular was Jimmy Carter who also scored a 28 percent approval in 1979.
When your job approval numbers are comparable to Jimmy Carter's, you know you're in the basement. Republicans quickly point out that this news of little consequence because Bush isn't running for election -- and that's true, our glorious constitution will remove Bush from office January 20, 2009 -- something that the voters should have done on November 2, 2004.
But what I find even more interesting is the gravity Bush's poor approval ratings is putting on the ability of any of the Republican candidates to rise above the pack. The most courageous of the group, Senator John McCain, spent much of the early campaign period holding onto George Bush's legacy -- and now he can't escape from it.
But for many months, McCain has appeared to cater to the Republican establishment, hoping to inherit the Bush fund-raising apparatus and placate conservatives who do not trust him on issues of taxes and immigration. His efforts have not paid off: he is not the front runner in fund-raising or in national polls. And he has seemed strangely dispirited along the way, more petulant than determined in last week's first Republican debate. That may be because he senses that his unflagging support for a highly unpopular war in Iraq could end his political career, but it may be because he is not, at heart, a politician. He is a warrior.
After supporting President Bush's current efforts in Iraq McCain attempted to distance himself from Bush's shadow in last Thursday's debate, pounding the podium for emphasis as he proclaimed that "The war was terribly mismanaged. The war was terribly mismanaged and we now have to fix a lot of the mistakes that were made." McCain now realizes that America is ready for a change.
All of the candidates can perhaps take some solace in Americans' dissatisfaction with the way things are going in the United States at this time (only 25 percent are satisfied; 71 percent dissatisfied). American dissatisfaction ratings last hit 71 in the NEWSWEEK poll in May 2006, at the height of the scandal over secret government wiretapping inside the United States. The last time that even half of our survey respondents were happy with the direction of the country was in April 2003, shortly after the start of the Iraq war. With that many unhappy Americans, the nation should have a strong appetite for new leaders and new ideas.
Whether McCain has the fuel to attain the velocity needed to pull away from the pack remains to be seen.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!