Previously anxious White House staffers believe TeamBush has turned the corner and won the Iraq debate, at least domestically, despite heavy initial Democrat resistance. Following the president's address to the UN, a remarkable 72 percent of Americans now believe Saddam Hussein will "eventually use weapons of mass destruction" against the United States if the administration does not take military action, according to a new Gallup poll. Eight in 10 Americans agree with the president that the UN has not been tough enough with Saddam, and Mr. Bush's job approval rating has hit 70 percent, the highest level since mid-July.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's new strategy: Try to change the subject. "Regardless of what it is we do with Iraq and the war on terrorism, I'd hope this administration can dedicate some of its time each week to economic security as well ... to this atrocious record," Sen. Daschle said in a 35-minute speech on Sept. 18 on the Senate floor. Sen. Daschle accused Mr. Bush of presiding over the loss of 2 million jobs, a $5 trillion surplus, and a $4.5 trillion drop in stock values. TeamBush counters that Democrats have no plan for the economy, other than to raise taxes by canceling the Bush tax cuts.
White House staff also cheerfully point reporters to the comments of a top economic adviser to President Clinton who disputes the charge that President Bush is solely to blame for current economic woes.
"It would be nice for us veterans of the Clinton administration if we could simply blame mismanagement by President George W. Bush's economic team for this seemingly sudden turnaround in the economy, which coincided so closely with its taking charge," writes Joseph Stiglitz, the former chairman of President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisors, in next month's The Atlantic Monthly. "The economy was slipping into recession even before Bush took office, and the corporate scandals that are rocking America began much earlier." Mr. Stiglitz adds that during the Clinton-Gore administration "the groundwork for some of the problems we are now experiencing was being laid. Accounting standards slipped; deregulation was taken further than it should have been; and corporate greed was pandered to," though he asserts that the Bush administration pandering is worse.
New Hampshire Republicans are already breathing a bit easier. GOP Rep. John Sununu, their new Senate nominee (having defeated incumbent Sen. Bob Smith on Sept. 10 in a brutal primary battle), now leads Democrat Gov. Jeanne Shaheen 49 percent to 40 percent, with 7 percent undecided.
The big question in Washington right now: Will Democrat candidates actually hitch their political wagons to the fate of Saddam Hussein? Some are. Liberal Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone is deeply hesitant about using military action against the Iraqi dictator, and he voted against war with Iraq in 1991. By contrast, GOP rival Norm Coleman strongly supports President Bush's position of "regime change," and he is sharply critical of Sen. Wellstone's opposition to Bush. Likewise, Sen. Tim Johnson, the embattled South Dakota Democrat, is also hesitant about going to war. He, too, voted against the Gulf War in 1991. He, too, is being hammered by his GOP rival, Rep. John Thune, who strongly supports Bush. Iowa Democrat Sen. Tom Harkin, on the other hand, appears to be getting a free pass. Sen. Harkin, who also voted against the Gulf War in 1991, joins his liberal colleagues in resistance to the Bush doctrine on Iraq. But his GOP rival Greg Ganske refuses to attack and voices similar hesitation.
Rep. Bob Ehrlich, the GOP gubernatorial candidate in Maryland, has a tiny lead over Democrat Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, according to two new polls. Maryland is a predominantly Democrat state, and a liberal one at that. Moreover, Ms. Townsend has served as the state's No. 2 official for eight years, while Rep. Ehrlich didn't begin his campaign that well-known statewide. But the self-described Republican "moderate" Ehrlich now leads 47 percent to 46 percent in one survey, with 7 percent undecided. Another survey finds Mr. Ehrlich leading 46 percent to 43 percent, with 11 percent undecided.