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And voters' mood is: grumpy

War, deficits, immigration: A Times poll says Florida’s ready for change.

By BILL ADAIR
Published October 28, 2006


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WASHINGTON — With Election Day just over a week away, Florida voters are grumpy.

They’re unhappy with President Bush, bitter about the Iraq war and worried that the nation is on the wrong track.

Forty-four percent of Florida voters say Bush is doing a poor job overall and more than half believe he’s doing a poor job with the war, according to a new St. Petersburg Times poll.

Fifty percent want Democrats to take over Congress, compared with just 39 percent that want the Republicans to remain in control.

The mood does not bode well for Republican candidates across the state. Rob Schroth, a Democratic pollster who jointly conducted the Times survey with Republican Kellyanne Conway, said Bush “is really pulling down the entire Republican effort in Florida because of his highly negative ratings.”

The poll shows that even Republican voters are in a sour mood — despite the fact that their party controls Congress and the White House. Thirty percent of the GOP voters believe the nation is on the wrong track, and 34 percent of them give Bush a fair or poor rating.

One such disgruntled Republican is Donald Rene Nadeau, 53, a licensed massage therapist in West Palm Beach, who says he is “totally opposed to what Bush is doing in Iraq. … It’s so stupid. The whole philosophy of his cowboy war, he needs to see a counselor.”

Nadeau is frustrated by his party’s efforts to mix religion with policy.

“This is not a nation under God, it’s a nation under laws,” he said. “We try to be as loving as possible, but there’s no need for religion to rule us.”

Conway, the Republican pollster, cited several other factors that have eroded Bush’s support in his own party.

“Fiscal conservatives are upset with runaway spending. Social conservatives are upset about a lack of movement with immigration reform. Everyone is upset with the lack of certainty with respect to Iraq,” she said.

The statewide telephone survey of 800 voters was conducted for the Times by Schroth/Eldon & Associates and the Polling Co. from last Sunday to Wednesday . The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.

The results show Bush has become a liability for his party. Only 36 percent of voters rate his overall performance as excellent or good. On his handling of the economy, 60 percent give him fair or poor ratings.

“I don’t think he’s doing anything to help the middle class,” said Theresa Meola, 43, an office manager from West Palm Beach registered as an independent.

She also blames Congress and says it is overly influenced by lobbyists and big business.

“It doesn’t seem like they’re doing anything for anybody except corporations,” she said.

Conway noted that the poll shows “a tale of two Bushes” because Gov. Jeb Bush remains popular in Florida despite the low ratings for his brother.

Indeed, Floridians are more upbeat about the political situation in the state than nationwide. Slightly more people said the state was moving in the right direction (44 percent) than in the wrong direction (43 percent), in contrast to their gloomy national assessment.

The poll also shows voters are not satisfied with how House Republican leaders responded to the scandal involving Rep. Mark Foley’s sexual messages to teen-age pages. Sixty-one percent said House leaders should have done more to investigate Foley’s contact with pages even though the initial evidence was not sexually explicit.

The poll indicates that, after six years of the Bush presidency and 12 years of Republican control of the House,  many voters are ready for a change.

Among independent voters, 51 percent would like to see Democrats run Congress, compared with only 27 percent that want continued Republican control. Among Republican voters, 12 percent want the Democrats to take over.

No matter which party is in charge, many voters would like to see more cooperation between the parties.

“There are no bipartisan moves any more. The power is all in one party,” said Earl Kirker, a retired newspaper editor in West Palm Beach.

But voters are not optimistic about the likelihood for bipartisanship.

Conway described the voters’ mood as “some disenchantment, some disgust and a lot of nervousness. … People feel nervous and fearful and somewhat exhausted.”

Times staff writers Wes Allison and Anita Kumar contributed to this report. Washington bureau chief Bill Adair can be reached at adair@sptimes.com or (202) 463-0575.

[Last modified October 28, 2006, 20:51:55]


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