Donald Lambro

Here's what the nonpartisan Gallup Poll has to say about all this in a separate analysis of its numbers:

"Americans are more positive about the war on terror, and voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports Bush on terrorism rather than one who opposes him. By a slight margin, Americans tend to think that the country will be safer from terrorism if the GOP retains control of the House, rather than if the Democrats take control.

"And voters are now as likely to say that the war in Iraq is part of the war on terror as say it is not," Gallup said.

Missing from all the yearlong political analysis we've heard about the GOP's troubles is the unspoken realization that the Democrats are in deep trouble, too. To be sure, a majority of Americans still disapprove of Bush's handing of the war in Iraq, but only one in four now "believes the Democrats have a clear plan on Iraq -- fewer than those who say this about the Bush administration," Gallup said.

"Also, Americans are about equally likely to say they would vote for a candidate who supports President Bush on Iraq as to vote for a candidate who opposes Bush," the analysis said.

What should worry Democratic campaign officials "is the fact that only 14 percent say the Democrats have a clear plan but Bush does not, while a greater percentage (23 percent) says Bush has a clear plan but the Democrats do not," Gallup said.

This is all pretty strong stuff from the premier polling organization in the country, known for its caution and evenhanded approach to the vicissitudes of voting trends in the elections.

But a survey of the past week's polls and what is happening in many of the races appeared to confirm Gallup's findings.

The Los Angeles Times, which polled 1,347 registered voters, last week reported, "On virtually every comparison between the parties measured in the survey, Republicans have improved their position since early summer.

"In particular, Republicans have nearly doubled their advantage when voters are asked which party they trust most to protect the nation against terrorism," the newspaper said.

Of course, this election will not be decided by a national vote but by who wins in some 30 competitive congressional districts and a half-dozen Senate races. There's no doubt the Democrats will gain seats on Nov. 7, but Gallup's numbers suggest the Republicans clearly have the momentum right now.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.