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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 October, 2003, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Worries at the White House
The BBC's Justin Webb
By Justin Webb
BBC correspondent in Washington

Is President Bush going to go the way of his father?

Until this summer the Bush administration appeared to have taken on board the lessons of the presidency of Bush Senior, who also fought a successful war against Iraq but neglected issues closer to home. Suddenly they seem to have lost their touch.

US President George W Bush
The president looks care-worn, but is he vulnerable?
The polls suggest a continuing fall in the popularity of the president and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction is being seen as a further blow to his prestige.

At the most recent Democrats' debate in New York, the candidates seeking the White House were noticeably perky when asked about their chances of defeating George Bush.

All are suddenly aware that they are competing among themselves for a real prize - the chance to take on the president and win.

During the summer, as the Democrats geared up, the nation giggled. The party's efforts to find a candidate who could get anywhere looked doomed to failure.

But now, with Iraq in turmoil and the Bush poll figures plummeting, the conservative commentator Fred Barnes says the Democrats have genuinely reached the conclusion that they can beat this president - he is now vulnerable.

Crisis concern

The poll figures are indeed grim - the president's overall popularity is back to the level it was when he won the White House but lost the popular vote in 2000.

He appeared to be firmly on the defensive, particularly on the subject of the polls; he took no notice of them, he said - always a sign of a politician in difficulties
But the broad poll figures do not tell the real story, according to Scott Keeter of the Pew Research Center.

He says people still admire Mr Bush and even like him and regard him as trustworthy and decent. But they have come round to thinking his judgement on key issues has been flawed.

They are no longer sure that - when faced with a major crisis - he does the right thing.

When he appeared on the White House lawn on Friday morning, the president certainly had a care-worn air.

He appeared to be firmly on the defensive - particularly on the subject of the polls. He took no notice of them, he said - always a sign of a politician in difficulties.

Jobs and cash

Can the president fight back? Of course.

Iraq could be pacified, Saddam Hussein could be caught. The economy could improve. Indeed it might already be improving. New figures suggest that employment in the US was up for the first time in eight months.

In a close race - and it looks as if it might be a close race - the big bucks just might make all the difference
And there is another big reason not to write off the president. He has squirreled away the biggest war-chest in the history of the presidency.

He will probably have $200m ready to spend on advertising when the campaign gets going.

The commentator Fred Barnes says that money could allow him to reach people over the heads of his critics in the national media.

Can President Bush buy his way back into power? In a close race - and it looks as if it might be a close race - the big bucks just might make all the difference.

Bush undeterred by Iraq report
03 Oct 03  |  Americas
Surprise pickup in US jobs
03 Oct 03  |  Business
Iraq spells trouble for Bush
28 Sep 03  |  From Our Own Correspondent
Can Democrats topple Bush?
05 Sep 03  |  Americas

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