when bush comes to shove

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    Public confidence in Bush continues to fall as more American soldiers die in Iraq
    By David Usborne in New York
    03 November 2003

    The failure to control the situation in Iraq and the rising number of American casualties are beginning to cost President George Bush dearly.

    For the first time, a majority of Americans, 51 per cent, according to a poll published yesterday, disapprove of Mr Bush's actions in Iraq.

    Even before the setback of a military helicopter being shot down yesterday with the loss of 15 American soldiers' lives, the political fortunes of Mr Bush were slipping significantly, one year before the next presidential election. An increasing impatience with the continuing violence in Iraq and growing public discontent with a domestic economy that stubbornly refuses to create new jobs are behind the poll figures.

    More than the failure of the United States to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, now it is the mounting death toll that is posing a political threat to Mr Bush. But the poll found that 54 per cent of Americans were still satisfied that it was worth going to war against Saddam Hussein. At the same time, the Washington Post-ABC News pollshowed 87 per cent of voters were concerned that the US would find itself bogged down in Iraq, while 62 per cent said they believed America had already suffered an unacceptable death toll.

    It is a rapidly darkening picture for the President that would send shivers of gloom through the Republican White House but for one thing: the apparent failure of any of the nine Democrats vying to run against Mr Bush next year to make any noticeable impact on voters. If the election were to be held today, 48 per cent of would vote to give Mr Bush a second term, while 47 per cent would choose to turf him out. But there are still 12 months before voters go to the polls.

    In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the US on 11 September 2001, he was basking in a 90 per cent approval rate. That has slipped to 56 per cent. While it is a huge drop, it is still historically respectable for this point in a presidency.

    There is also a perception that he cannot reverse a trend of growing joblessness, which stands at 6.1 per cent and which is another reason he is taking a battering in opinion polls.

    Americans are also rating negatively his handling of the economy by a 2-1 margin. Only 9 per cent of those questioned said they thought most Americans were better off than on the day Mr Bush took office. At the weekend, he conceded that the 7.2 per cent GDP growth registered in the third quarter of the year, the strongest rate of growth in 19 years, was unlikely to be replicated in coming quarters. In some senses, Mr Bush is getting a free pass from his political opponents. The same poll found that most voters could only name one or two of the Democrat contenders.
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