Bush's Job Approval Hits New Low

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Tempers cooled a bit in Washington today after the partisan meltdown that brought Senate business to a halt Tuesday.

Even so, neither Congress nor the White House will find much in a new CBS News poll to put them in a better humor. President Bush's job approval has reached the lowest level yet. Only 35 percent approve of the job he's doing.


Congress is rated even lower. Only 34 percent approve of its work.

Vice President Cheney has never been as popular as the president, but his favorable rating is down nine points this year to just 19 percent.

Read more of the results from the latest CBS News poll.

So where does the White House go from here? Mr. Bush is finding no shortage of advice, reports CBS News White House correspondent John Roberts.

The plunge in poll numbers is another dose of bad news for a White House mired in it. The only recent president lower at this point in their second term was Richard Nixon.

What's behind the slide? Two thousand war dead in Iraq, an indictment in the CIA leak, the aborted nomination of Harriet Miers, and the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina.

"The president I think has bottomed out. I think last week was the bottom," said Ken Duberstein, who worked in the team that Ronald Reagan brought in to help recover from the Iran-Contra scandal. Duberstein wrote a prescription for change in today's New York Times.

"I think that they need to bring in some new blood, new blood that would give the president differing opinions, not someone who has been burned out for four or five years, but somebody who has a fresh perspective," he said.

Tuesday's shutdown of the Senate shows the political danger of presidential drift. Democrats sat back and watched for an opening – then moved right in.

"Over 60 percent of the American people say we want this country moving in a significantly new direction," said Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.). "They're looking for vision and leadership, they're looking for a voice and that's where the Democrats have to step up."

The battle is over momentum heading into an election year. The White House lost it, the Democrats want it, and Republicans in Congress are desperate to hang on to whatever threads are left.

"The progress is there and the momentum is there and we're going to deliver for the American people," said Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn. "I see signs of obstruction around here all the time, too much for me, but we're just going to try to stay above it."

CBS News political correspondent Gloria Borger says that with a low approval rating, the president should not expect any help in Congress.

"There are 80 house seats up for grabs and they will not line up behind an unpopular president," Borger said. "They need to get re-elected and George Bush does not."

This week's Alito Supreme Court nomination and the president's bird flu speech were the first steps in a turnaround, Duberstein said, but the White House still needs to lose the "bunker" mentality and let in new ideas.

"This country can't afford three years of drift and neither can the world," Duberstein said. "The president of the United States of America has to be at the top of his game."

So far, there's no indication the president is considering any of the outside advice to shake up the White House. But if he doesn't soon find his footing, suggestions for change will quickly become demands.

Borger reports that there is word that Andy Card, the president's chief of staff, might want to be treasury secretary. If so, Borger says that Mr. Bush would only bring in people he feels comfortable with.

"If he brings in somebody new, it will be somebody he knows, possibly from his days in Texas."

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com