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Bush Poll Numbers Continue to Slip

Public concern over Iraq, domestic fuel prices and the CIA leak investigation appear to be eroding President Bush's support at home.

Two new polls within the past few days show the president's public approval rating dropping to new lows.

A survey by The Washington Post and ABC News has Mr. Bush's approval rating at 39 percent. Another poll two days earlier by CBS News had the president down to 35 percent.

In addition, 58 percent of those surveyed in The Washington Post/ABC News poll said they now question the president's integrity.

President Bush was asked about the weakening poll numbers during his trip to Argentina for the Summit of the Americas.

"You know I understand there is a preoccupation with polls by some," said George Bush. "I think maybe this is the fourth or fifth consecutive press conference or semi-press conference that I have been asked about polls. The way you earn credibility with the American people is to set a clear agenda that everybody can understand, an agenda that relates to their lives, and get the job done."

The poll numbers come as no surprise to many analysts who say President Bush has been hurt by growing public concern over U.S. casualties in Iraq, fuel prices at home, the response to Hurricane Katrina, the failed Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers and the criminal indictment of Lewis Libby, a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Larry Sabato heads the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

"Democrats smell blood," said Larry Sabato. "They see that President Bush is unpopular, the vice president's chief of staff has been indicted, the Iraq war is terribly unpopular, gas prices are too high and the list goes on and on."

Opposition Democrats have focused on the Libby indictment, which came as a result of the investigation into the leaking of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity two years ago.

Mr. Libby entered a plea of not guilty to five counts of either lying to or trying to mislead investigators in connection with conversations he had with journalists about Ms. Plame's CIA status.

Ms. Plame is married to former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence on Iraq to justify the U.S. led invasion, a charge the White House denies.

Democrats are pushing for a wider probe of the intelligence failures on Iraq. Among them is the party's national chairman, Howard Dean, who appeared on MSNBC television.

"All this started, frankly, because of the Iraq war," said Howard Dean. "The president did not tell the truth when we got in. I think we now know that. And then they attacked people who brought evidence to show that he did not tell the truth, like Ambassador Wilson."

Some of the president's Republican allies in Congress insist Mr. Bush has plenty of time to reverse his negative poll ratings over the next three years.

John Cornyn is a Republican senator from the president's home state of Texas. He spoke on the ABC program This Week.

"I think the president does have an opportunity now, after admittedly a very bad week, to turn things around and to show why the people of this country re-elected him just one short year ago," said John Cornyn.

Political analysts suggest the president should make some staff changes for the rest of his second term and should refocus his agenda in hopes of winning back some of the public support he has lost.

Stuart Rothenberg publishes a political newsletter in Washington and is a guest on VOA's Encounter program.

"I think the White House, the president and the Republicans in Congress need to turn the page," said Stuart Rothenberg. "They need to be much more proactive about an agenda, a positive agenda that the American public cares about. They need a success or two. Maybe they need some luck."

But Mr. Bush told reporters in Argentina that his priority remains the war on terrorism and the situation in Iraq.

"Now look, we have got an ongoing war on terror," said President Bush. "My administration is working with friends and allies to find these terrorists and bring them to justice before they strike us again. We are fighting the terrorists in Iraq."

Democrats meanwhile are busy trying to recruit congressional candidates for next year's midterm elections, hoping to take advantage of the president's low approval ratings.