Matt Towery

First the bad news, and then a way to make it good news -- good, that is, if you support Republicans.

But don't despair, Democrats. The White House is bound to ignore my suggestion. So you will probably end up with the best news of all.

InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion Research is now conducting an ambitious public-opinion survey of the entire South. The region is crucial to Republican hopes of holding on to their congressional majority and to many governorships.

The final, comprehensive results of the poll weren't yet complete when this column was filed. Over 4,000 interviews have been conducted, however -- enough to render persuasively alarming news for the GOP.

For example, in the populous states of Florida and Georgia, more respondents want the Democrats to control Congress next year than they do the Republicans.

President George W. Bush won both states in 2004, and yet he now has higher disapproval ratings than approval ratings. In Georgia, his disapproval rate approaches 50 percent. In Florida, it's 55 percent.

It gets worse for Republicans. Initial polling results seem to show that the disapproval of Washington Republicans is starting to translate into possible votes against GOP candidates this fall in statewide races back home. Most of these are races in which Republicans would expect to hold obvious upper hands.

Not surprisingly given the overall polling results, there is also an emerging trend of erosion of support for President Bush and the GOP Congress by core conservative voters, as well as by independent voters. In the Republicans' strongest region in the nation, it's these independents who usually give the conservative party its victory margins.

Much of the mess the president now finds himself in can be explained by what I'll call the West Wing Effect.

Those who watch the television series "The West Wing" know that its Republican candidate for president supported nuclear energy, which earned him frightened scorn when the nation was then stricken by a nuclear accident.

Ignoring advisers who suggested stonewalling the issue, the candidate finally comes clean before the nation. He fields endless questions from all who care to bully or inquire.

Sound familiar? It should, because the fictitious president voluntarily threw himself to the media wolves at about the same time the real President Bush did the same over Iraq. Bush and his team decided to give an almost daily sequence of speeches on the unpopular war and to answer all questions about it.

Life has imitated art. This public relations strategy has been disastrous.

Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a former National Republican legislator of the year and author of Powerchicks: How Women Will Dominate America.
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