Bush, his Republican party hit new lows in U.S. public opinion

President George W. Bush has hit new lows in public opinion for his handling of Iraq, his campaign against international terror and his overall job performance. Polling also shows the Republican Party surrendering its advantage on national security.

The AP-Ipsos poll is loaded with grim election-year news for a party struggling to stay in power. Nearly 70 percent of Americans believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction, the largest percentage of the Bush presidency and 13 points higher than a year ago.

"These numbers are scary. We've lost every advantage we've ever had," GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio said. "The good news is Democrats don't have much of a plan. The bad news is they may not need one."

Democratic leaders predicted they would seize control of one or both chambers of Congress in November. Republicans said they feared the worst without a quick change in the political landscape.

There is more at stake than the careers of Republican lawmakers. A Democratic-led Congress could bury the last vestiges of Bush's legislative agenda and subject the administration to high-profile investigations of the Iraq war, the CIA leak case, warrantless domestic spying and other matters.

In the past two congressional elections, Republicans gained seats on the strength of Bush's popularity and a perception among voters that the president's party was stronger on national security than Democrats.

Those advantages are gone, according to a survey of 1,003 adults conducted this week for The Associated Press by Ipsos, an international polling firm.

On an issue the GOP has dominated for decades, Republicans are locked in a tie with Democrats 41 percent each on the question of which party people trust to protect the country. Democrats made their biggest national security gains among young men, according to the AP-Ipsos poll, which had a 3 percentage point margin of error.

The public gives Democrats a slight edge on what party would better handle Iraq, a reversal from Election Day 2004, reports AP.

O.Ch.