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Floridians think war has been handled badly

Published August 13, 2006

A St. Petersburg Times poll found that more than half of Floridians think President Bush has done a poor job handling the war in Iraq, an opinion that could spill over into this fall's elections.

Fifty-four percent of Floridians statewide gave the president the lowest ranking possible, and 22 percent rated his war performance as "fair," the poll found.

Bush's overall job performance was not significantly better. In the poll, 64 percent of Floridians rated his performance as poor or fair. Thirty-four percent rated him good or excellent.

"It's an abysmal ranking," said pollster Thomas Eldon, one of two pollsters the Times used. "You get a sense that the people in the survey want to see this resolved in a positive fashion. They just have lost confidence in the Bush administration's ability to conduct this war."

National polls have found similar sentiments for months, and that discontent culminated earlier this week in the defeat of a sitting U.S. senator. Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman, Al Gore's vice presidential running mate in 2000, was turned out by his own party for his staunch support of the Iraqi invasion. He lost to a fellow Democrat whose sole issue is that he opposes the war.

More than half of Floridians, 56 percent, said the United States did not make the right decision to invade Iraq. And more than half, 58 percent, also said the United States should establish a timetable to withdraw all troops from Iraq. Thirty-seven percent said the United States should stay as long as it takes to stabilize the country.

Kellyanne Conway of the Polling Co. said that, even as Republican Hispanics and women were "happier" with the president than other GOP groups, white Republican men could express their displeasure with Iraq by not showing up at the polls this fall. That could spell trouble for Republican incumbents, especially those in federal office.

The president also did not poll well with older voters. The poll found 48 percent of seniors rated his job performance as "poor."

"He is having a very tough time around seniors, and seniors back in the 2004 election were a part of the (Karl) Rove coalition, and they're beginning to disappear on Bush in pretty significant numbers," Eldon said.

Judy Reinach 65, of Key Biscayne agrees. The self-avowed Republican political junkie says she's opposed to the war and saw no connection between the terrorism attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and the war in Iraq.

"There's been misplaced priorities," Reinach said. "I think George Bush means well, but I didn't think he got it right."

The St. Petersburg Times telephone survey of 800 registered voters was conducted Aug. 6-9 by the firms Schroth Eldon & Associates, whose clients primarily are Democrats, and the Polling Co., which works with Republicans. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

The poll was completed before Americans learned of the terrorist plot that was uncovered by British authorities last week.

Only Congress fared worse than the president. Seventeen percent of Floridians rated Congress as doing at least a good job, according to the poll. But 82 percent rated the job Congress has done as either poor or fair.

[Last modified August 13, 2006, 08:31:04]

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