As frequent Swampland commenter Cfaller96 loves to remind me, I predicted here that the August congressional recess would be a difficult time for Republicans, because they would be returning to their districts to face voters who were furious over the Iraq war. But if this morning’s Washington Post is right, the exact opposite has happened: It’s the Democrats who are being put on the defensive over the war:
Democratic leaders in Congress had planned to use August recess to raise the heat on Republicans to break with President Bush on the Iraq war. Instead, Democrats have been forced to recalibrate their own message in the face of recent positive signs on the security front, increasingly focusing their criticisms on what those military gains have not achieved: reconciliation among Iraq’s diverse political factions.
The Post also writes that the pressure is likely to increase with a $15-million, 20-state ad campaign by a new independent organization calling itself Freedom’s Watch, which is being run by former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and which will feature Iraq veterans and the families of those who died there pleading: “It’s no time to quit.”
All of this comes on the heels of a new Gallup Poll showing Congress’ approval down to 18%, as low as it has ever been in the more than three decades that Gallup has been tracking it. The reason:
The nine-point drop in Congress’ job approval rating from last month to this month has come exclusively from Democrats and independents, with Democrats’ ratings dropping 11 points (from 32% to 21%) and independents’ ratings dropping 13 points (from 30% to 17%).
It’s hard to interpret that sharp decline in Democratic support as anything but disappointment over Congress’ failure to bring about a sharp turn in Iraq policy. This has been anything but a relaxing August vacation for Democratic leaders, and September may only get worse.