Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- A new Democratic survey shows a significant erosion in public support for Barack Obama's handling of the terrorist threat and other national security issues that pollsters say should be a "wake-up call" for the president and his party.

The poll numbers have shaken White House advisers who are said to be nearing a recommendation that Obama reverse his unpopular plan to try Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a U.S. civilian court, and prosecute him instead in a military tribunal.

The polling report from Democracy Corps, run by pollster Stanley Greenberg and former Clinton strategist James Carville, and co-sponsored by the Third Way, a Democratic advocacy group, is the latest bad news facing Obama and his party just eight months before voters go to the polls in November.

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Obama and the Democrats are getting blamed not only for their failed economic policies that have put the economy on a jobless trajectory, and their attempts to ramrod an unpopular health care plan through Congress; now Americans are voicing their deep disapproval of the most important job the president has: protecting our country from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Greenberg and company said its poll showed Obama and his party have a lot of repair work ahead of them to regain the shattered confidence of the voters on this score. Among their complaints:

-- "The administration's response to the Christmas Day terrorist attempt has contributed to the erosion," the polling report said. Obama's response to the attempted airline attack barely won 50 percent approval. But "now, a narrow 46 to 42 percent plurality of likely voters say they feel less confident about the administration's handling of national security because of how it responded to the incident, with views splitting largely along partisan lines."

-- The administration's decision to give foreign terrorists the same legal and civilian jury trial rights accorded to all U.S. citizens is perhaps the most politically virulent issue of all, the survey found. The voters' angry responses came when Greenberg read this Republican message to those he polled:

"Democrats are insisting that terrorists be treated like American citizens, with full legal protections, like Miranda rights. But we should put the safety of Americans before the rights of terrorists, and we should be using all our toughest interrogation techniques to fight back against these terrorists who are trying to kill us."

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.