What's the opposite of coattails?

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll suggests the problems of the president have spread to his party.

Published November 10, 2005 2:04PM (EST)

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll -- conducted before terrorists succeeded in striking three American-branded hotels in Jordan yesterday -- hands George W. Bush another round of the numbers we've come to expect. His approval rating is down to 38 percent, the lowest of his presidency; 57 percent of the public thinks he deliberately misled the country about the case for war; and only a third of the poll's respondents give the president high marks for being honest, a 17-point drop from the beginning of the year.

All that's to be expected, at least in light of other recent polls. What may be more alarming for Republicans -- and more encouraging for Democrats -- is this. The poll seems to confirm what Tuesday's elections suggested: Whatever the opposite of coattails is, the president is now wearing them. The poll's respondents said, by a 48 to 37 margin, that they want Democrats to take control of Congress in 2006. As the Journal notes, that 11-point gap is the largest either party has enjoyed since the poll started asking that question a decade ago. Also for the first time since 1994, a majority of the poll's respondents say that it's time to replace their own members of Congress.

While poll results don't decide elections -- and November 2006 is still a long way away -- the Journal's characterization of the new survey must be sending a chill among Republicans already nervous about their weakened president and a disappointing showing in Tuesday's elections. "Among other findings," the Journal writes, "the poll indicates that voters no longer prefer Republicans to Democrats on handling taxes, cutting government spending, dealing with immigration and directing foreign policy. Meanwhile, Democrats have restored their earlier edges on subjects such as education and Social Security, on which Mr. Bush has sought to make inroads among targeted constituencies."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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