After a disastrous two weeks, President Bush took pains this week to deal with his own political recovery as well as that of the Gulf region. In the wake of the worst poll ratings of his presidency, he launched a massive PR offensive that included some old reliables – a big primetime speech in a dramatic setting and a return to the National Cathedral. And he added a few new touches – he fired someone he liked, admitted mistakes and launched an expensive federal domestic spending program.
But will all this work? Continuing the baseball metaphor used by Judge John "the Ump" Roberts, I asked Republican and Democratic political strategists whether President Bush's season is over or whether he has just been going through a summer slump.
They all agreed on one big point: the president is in a heap of political trouble. But they offered different points of view on his ability to come back and the impact it will have on the 2006 elections.
Republican pollster David Winston says that the speech and plan to rebuild the Gulf region offer the president an opportunity to recover, to demonstrate he can govern and to convince people that he and his administration are effective.
Winston says the partisanship that emerged following Katrina made it strikingly different from the period following 9/11. "It made people feel very bad about things and dragged down everyone involved." But, Winston said, "Americans have a natural sympathy toward the victims and want to make things right." He added that prior to the hurricane the administration was struggling with gas prices and this actually will give them the chance to show they can govern. "This could produce a very positive reaction and the president may be able to reestablish confidence," he said.