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Voters Cast Ballots in Eight State Primaries

Voters went to the polls in eight states Tuesday, casting ballots in primaries for senators, and governors, and members of the House. Experts discuss what this means for November elections and the Bush administration.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Voters went to the polls in eight states today, casting ballots in primaries for senators, and governors, and members of the House. The backdrop for all this voting: these numbers.

    In early 2005, 50 percent of Americans said they approved of President Bush; that figure is now down to 33 percent.

    For members of Congress, the decline has been even more steep. In 2005, 43 percent thought lawmakers were doing a good job; that's now dropped to 23 percent.

    What does any of this bode for this fall's mid-term elections? For analysis, we turn to Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Center for the People and the Press, and Amy Walter from the Cook Political Report.

    Andy Kohut, yours are the latest numbers about the president's disapproval ratings. What does this slide mean?

    ANDREW KOHUT, Pew Center for the People and the Press: It means that people are mad at Washington; they're mad at the president; they're mad at the Congress; they're mad at the Republican Party, because they control both.

    And the consequences are three things. We see a very high rate of people telling us they will be thinking about national issues when they go to vote in congressional elections, a record number of people saying that they will be voting against the president, 34 percent. We haven't had anything that high since that question started being asked in 1982.

    We have a very high percentage of people saying that they will be thinking — that they care which party controls Congress. So there's nationalization.

    There's a surge of anti-incumbent sentiment. We now have 29 percent of people saying they don't believe their congressperson deserves re-election. It hasn't been that high since 1994. And the Republican Party is taking it on the chin as the party that controls Washington.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Amy Walter, you've been following these House races, competitive and not-competitive, as they unfold. Is Andy right? Are congressional ratings sliding because of this national anger?

  • AMY WALTER, Senior Editor, The Cook Political Report:

    Well, absolutely. And I think the congressional polls are more of a lagging indicator. The leading indicator were some of these numbers that you put up on the screen, the president's approval rating.

    I think another important one is the right direction-wrong track question, where you have 70 percent of voters now saying they think the country is headed off in the wrong direction. So I agree with Andy that what voters are saying, in the big picture way, is we're not happy with the status quo.

    What we're seeing in the individual House race polling right now is that it's taking a toll on almost every single Republican candidate, that it is almost like a weight that's just pushing them down. So if you are a Republican incumbent that is used to getting polling back that shows you in the mid-50s, maybe now you're only in the mid-40s.

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