Bush Needs To Quickly Win GOP Support On Iraq, Or He'll Lose It

Republican strategists with close ties to Capitol Hill say President Bush and his senior aides are too optimistic about keeping GOP congressional support for the Iraq war over the long term. A senior GOP adviser says Bush has until springtime to improve the situation in Iraq or he will face a GOP rebellion that could result in reductions in spending for the conflict and legislation to start bringing the troops home.

"In reality, he has until April or May" because "he has lost much of his moral authority" to motivate the country and affect Congress, said the adviser. "The State of the Union was a plea for relevance--a plea to Republicans, not Democrats. But how do you sustain a foreign policy if you don't have domestic support of it? And his domestic agenda will also be affected. It's like cancer. Opposition to foreign policy spreads to domestic issues."

On the other side of the aisle, Democratic pollster Geoff Garin agrees that Bush's State of the Union address gave Bush only a temporary, and minimal, lift.

"There was nothing about the speech that changed the political or policy conversation in the country," Garin told U.S. News. He added that the nonbinding antiwar resolutions making their way through the Senate are important political benchmarks. "They force hard choices by a lot of Republicans . . . and shine a spotlight on divisions in Republican ranks over the president's policy."

By Kenneth T. Walsh