New polls indicate Republicans are facing political peril in the wake of Katrina, so why won't the Beltway press acknowledge that fact? On Sunday the Washington Post sized up the political landscape with a story headlined, "Katrina Darkens the Outlook for Incumbents."
That's right. According to the Post, "The dispute over Washington's role in saving lives in New Orleans and in the future threatens to make incumbents from both parties among Katrina's casualties, several officials said." [Emphasis added.]
See if you follow that logic. The federal government if facing fierce criticism for its handling of disaster relief. The federal government is run by Republicans. By controlling both chambers of Congress they drive the political agenda as well as all the appropriations. Republicans controls the White House. And they appoint the director of every major federal agency, such as FEMA. But the Post insists Republicans and Democrats nationwide face uncertainty at the polls. Is there single other example from modern American history in which voters unleashed disdain for the federal government in the wake of a specific crisis or scandal, and the minority party suffered the political wounds? If so, please list below. (As for the Post relying on "several officials" to support the paper's incumbent theory, the quotes included in the article suggesting Dems may pay a price are mighty thin.)
Making things worse, on Saturday the Post's sister publication Newsweek published on its website the results from its latest poll, showing Bush dropping to historic low approval rating of 38%. Specifically, Newsweek reported, "Reflecting the tarnished view of the administration, only 38 percent of registered voters say they would vote for a Republican for Congress if the Congressional elections were held today, while 50 say they would vote for a Democrat."
Prior to Katrina, polls throughout 2005 showed Democrats enjoying roughly a 5-7 point lead when voters were asked which party they planned to vote for in the next election. Post-Katrina, that number nearly doubled. That, couple with the fact that Bush, the public face of the GOP and the point person the press has credited with powering recent Republican election gains, is now saddled with Jimmy Carter-like approval ratings, it's pretty obvious the GOP faces the possibility of real danger. Yet the Post pretends the blame is spread between Republicans and Democrats. (FYI, the Post article was specifically about incumbents in Washington, not New Orleans.)
My guess is the Post, whose editorial page initially—and inexplicably--supported the Bush disaster relief, is simply not ready to publish a headline that reads, "Katrina Darkens the Outlook for Republicans." And that's odd considering that during the Clinton impeachment drama the Post seemed to never tire of articles that pondered the possible price Democrats would face come Election Day.
In other words, when Clinton was in trouble, Democrats were said to be left holding the bag. But when Bush is in trouble, it's incumbents from both parties who might pay a high price.