The economy is looking marginally better -- at least until the housing bubble fizzles or pops or otherwise does what it does when it leaves folks upside down in their homes -- but the Bush administration doesn't seem to be getting any credit with the well-polled public. Democratic pollster Mark Mellman tells the Washington Post that Iraq is the cause. Americans don't approve of the way George W. Bush is handling the war, and that disappproval spills over on to everything else. Mellman calls it "reverse halo effect."
There's another word for it: albatross. Check out these numbers from the latest USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll. An "unprecedented" 57 percent of the public thinks that, the president's pronouncements notwithstanding, the Iraq war has made the United States more vulnerable to terrorism, not less. Almost as many, 56 percent, say the war is going "badly." Fifty-four percent say that going to war was a mistake in the first place, and the same number says that the war hasn't been worth the cost.
Overall, Bush's job approval rating remains near its all-time low: Just 45 percent of the public approves of the job Bush is doing as president. What that number doesn't reflect: Support for the president, where it still exists, isn't as strong as it once was. In the weeks after the 2004 election, 39 percent of Gallup's respondents said they "strongly" approved of Bush's job performance. That number is down to 25 percent today.