WSJ reported While President Bush has high hopes for today's elections in Iraq, his Republican Party faces a different challenge at home: quelling the political insurgency among elderly American voters like Virginia Renfro.
"They should shake [Washington] up a little bit," says Ms. Renfro, 68 years old, a retired school-cafeteria worker in LaPorte, Ind. Displeased with Mr. Bush's Social Security ideas,
which were not supported by many in Congress, but which would not have hurt Ms Renfro, but would have certainly helped her grandchildren.confused by Medicare's prescription-drug benefit
If you don't like it, you don't have to sign up.and unhappy with illegal immigration
I agree with her there, but hopefully Congress is about to do something on that, even though it will not be Bush's Guest Worker plan. If Congress comes through with what they have on their plate, they can then complain about the price of lettuce and getting their grass mowed, and then maybe Guest Worker will be more popular., Ms. Renfro isn't sure she will vote again for her fellow Republican, Rep. Chris Chocola, in November's midterm elections.
The new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll makes clear that Ms. Renfro has plenty of company. In a period of broad-ranging public discontent, that among senior citizens stands out as most worrisome for Republicans aiming to keep control of the House and Senate in the fall.
"They're a pretty cranked up bunch and they've got to be handled with enormous care by incumbents," says Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who helps conduct the Journal/NBC survey. So far, adds his Democratic counterpart Peter Hart, "the Bush administration has done more to alienate them than to gain their support."
The results can be seen in Americans' attitudes toward Congress 11 months before Election Day 2006. By a 65%-19% margin, Americans age 65 and above disapprove of the performance of Congress; those under 65 are also negative but less lopsidedly, 58%-27%. Moreover, senior citizens say by 47%-37% that they want Democrats rather than Republicans to win control of Capitol Hill. Those under 65 prefer a Democratic victory by a narrower 45%-39% margin.
That disparity, like some other political differences between older and younger Americans, is relatively slight. But it has big implications for the 2006 campaign for two reasons.
One is that older voters, having given Mr. Bush slightly greater support than younger voters in his narrow 2004 re-election victory, have now become the most critical of his job performance. In the Journal/NBC poll, for instance, Americans under 65 disapprove of Mr. Bush's job performance by a margin of 16 percentage points, while those 65 and above disapprove by a margin of 20 percentage points.
The second is that older voters play an outsize role in midterm contests, because they traditionally turn out at higher rates while many young voters tune out campaigns not featuring a presidential contest. Voters older than 60 made up 24% of those voting in 2004, but a larger 28% in the 1998 midterm contest, the last such campaign for which exit-poll data are available.