We’ve discussed this before, but although everyone agrees that the war in Iraq is the albatross around the Prez’s neck, it’s also a fact that the bottom fell out of Bush’s popularity thanks to his administration’s disastrously incompetent handling of Hurricane Katrina, from which he has never recovered. Dan Balz of the Washington Post brings us up to date:
Certainly Bush suffered from other problems as Katrina began to make
its way through the Gulf of Mexico. By then, public support for the war
in Iraq had begun to significantly erode. By then the president’s
audacious plan to restructure Social Security was on life support on
Capitol Hill. His approval rating had fallen into negative territory.
the storyline of a bungling administration was far from fully realized
before Katrina hit the coast. Democrats had lost too many elections to
Bush to conclude that his political team was a gang that couldn’t shoot
straight. The White House team enjoyed grudging respect from Democratic
opponents for its discipline, strategic impulses and, yes, competence.
Public approval of the president, while drifting down, was not yet in
the danger zone.
Katrina suddenly changed all that. Bill McInturff, the Republican
pollster, did an analysis Katrina’s effect on Bush’s approval ratings
in the summer of 2006 and concluded that almost a year after the storm,
the president was still suffering a post-Katrina hangover.
What McInturff did was to merge a series of NBC News-Wall Street
Journal polls and examine various groups in the population. He
concluded that, almost a year later, the president’s support from each
of those groups looked far closer to the storm-battered numbers
immediately after Katrina than it had in the year before the hurricane.
"I think it makes a compelling case Katrina had in reshaping the Bush presidency," he said.
In the year since McInturff did his analysis, Bush’s approval
ratings have only gotten worse — a month-by-month decline that is
remarkable for its steady descent.
An analysis of public polls by the Democracy Corps, a Democratic
organization, found that Bush’s approval rating in July 2005 averaged
46.1 percent and his disapproval averaged 50.2 percent. By the
following July, his approval averaged 38.1 percent and his disapproval
averaged 56.2 percent. Last month, his approval averaged 29.3 percent
while his disapproval averaged 65 percent.
In short, in the past two years, the margin between the president’s
approval and disapproval ratings fell from minus 4.1 percentage points
to minus 35.8 percentage points.
Much more than Katrina explains the continuing drop in Bush’s
support in the past 12 months, but there is little doubt that the
hurricane crystallized negative perceptions about Bush’s performance
that he never has been able to shake.
Speaking of "hard to shake," here’s the classic image of Bush in the bubble, overlooking the damage, that has been forever burned into the minds of Americans (via Crooks and Liars):