Democratic candidates have a big edge on Republicans one month before elections to decide control of Congress, a flurry of new polls said on Monday, with ratings for President George W. Bush and Congress dropping after the Capitol Hill sex scandal.

A USA Today/Gallup poll gave Democrats a 23-point edge on Republicans in the battle for Congress, while a CNN poll gave Democrats a 21-point lead.

A ABC News/Washington Post poll found Democrats held a 54-41 percent lead in the congressional horse race among registered and likely voters, which ABC said was the biggest Democratic lead this close to election day in more than 20 years.

And a new CBS News/New York Times poll showed 79 percent of respondents thought Republican leaders were more concerned with politics than the well-being of the teenage congressional assistants who received lewd messages from former Republican Rep. Mark Foley of Florida.

Republicans, already battered by public doubts about the Iraq war and Bush’s leadership, have been scrambling to contain the fallout from the unfolding sex scandal and keep it from sinking their chances on November 7.

Democrats must pick up 15 House seats and six Senate seats to reclaim control of Congress.

Several recent polls have shown declining approval ratings for Republicans in the last week amid a torrent of questions about how the party’s congressional leaders handled the Foley issue.

The CNN poll found 52 percent believed Republican House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois should resign, while the CBS poll found 46 percent favored his resignation.


The CBS poll found two-thirds of voters said the Foley scandal would make little difference in how they cast their ballots, but 21 percent said it would make them more likely to vote Democratic.

The ABC poll said the Foley scandal was a more distant concern than Iraq for voters, who doubted whether Democrats would have handled the scandal any better.

The ABC poll found 63 percent said the Iraq war was not worth fighting, a record for that poll. A new high for the poll of 53 percent of respondents disapproved of Bush’s handling of the broader U.S. campaign against terrorism — a supposed White House strength.

The new USA Today/Gallup poll showed Bush’s public approval rating at 37 percent, down from 44 percent in mid-September. The approval rating for Congress was 24 percent, down 5 percentage points from last month.

The ABC News poll had Bush’s approval rating at 39 percent, down from 42 percent in early September.

Asked which party’s candidate they would support if the election were held today, the USA Today/Gallup poll found Democrats favored by 23 percentage points among all voters questioned, including likely voters, registered voters and adults.

That was the largest lead Democrats have held among registered voters since 1978, and up dramatically from last month’s 48 percent-48 percent tie among likely voters, USA Today said.

The CNN poll found 58 percent of likely voters say they plan to vote for Democrats in November, compared with 37 percent who say they will vote for Republicans. The 21-point gap is 5 points wider that it was in a CNN poll last week.

USA Today said its poll found two-thirds of respondents were following the Foley scandal very or somewhat closely. More than half, 54 percent, said Republican leaders who knew about Foley’s actions did not act against him earlier “for political reasons.”

Government corruption, Iraq and terrorism were the three most important issues listed in the USA Today poll, with respondents saying Democrats would do a better job on all three. Democrats had a 21-point edge on handling corruption and a 17-point advantage on Iraq.

The traditional Republican advantage on handling terrorism vanished, USA Today said, with Democrats holding a 5-point edge.

© 2006 Reuters