Zogby: Iraq Helping Dems in '06 Races; McCain, Rice Are GOP's Only Positives

Democratic congressional candidates hold a sizeable lead over Republicans heading into the 2006 midterm elections, pollster John Zogby said Wednesday. He blamed the GOP’s eroding support almost exclusively on the war in Iraq.

When voters were asked who they would “definitely” or “probably” vote for next year for Congress, 48% said the Democrat candidate and 40% said the Republican. The remainder were either undecided or plan to support a third-party challenger.

Bush Loses Clout

Perhaps most alarming to Republicans is the lack of clout President Bush carries within his party. Only a slight majority of Republicans (54%) said they would be more inclined to support a candidate with Bush’s backing. Among independents, 51% said they would be less likely to support a candidate who has Bush’s endorsement.

During the 2002 midterm elections and again in 2004, Republicans gained seats in Congress — attributed, at least in part, to Bush’s popularity. Now, if Zogby’s numbers are accurate, Republicans could be facing a disastrous year — prompting comparisons to 1974 and 1994 when dozens of seats changed hands in Congress.

Iraq is the issue most Americans have on their minds, and Zogby said, it is helping bolster Democrats. Among households with a member of the military — an important GOP constituency — 40% “strongly oppose” the war. A majority (54%) still believe the U.S. will win the war in Iraq and war on terror.

“President Bush wanted his presidency to be all about the war in Iraq, and that’s exactly what it is,” Zogby said.

Two GOP Stars

Republicans have two bright spots: Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.), Bush’s GOP primary challenger in 2000, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Both have positive approval ratings, whereas others in the Bush Administration and Congress are viewed negatively. Bush’s approval stands at 38%.

McCain, who is viewed favorably by three-quarters of Americans, has clout regardless of party. If he were to endorse a candidate, 55% of Republicans, 53% of Democrats and 58% of independents said they would be more likely to vote for that candidate.

“That’s remarkable,” Zogby said. “This next year, look for John McCain to be coming to a theater near you.”

Below are the approval ratings from Zogby’s poll for key Washington, D.C., leaders. The poll was based on 1,013 interviews nationwide and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Job Approval Ratings

President Bush: 38%

Vice President Cheney: 33%

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: 53%

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: 35%

Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid: 13%

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist: 21%

House Speaker Dennis Hastert: 20%

House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi: 20%