Americans fed up with GOP ‘leadership’

Dissatisfied with the nation’s direction, Americans are leaning
toward wanting a change in which political party leads Congress —
preferring that Democrats take control, an AP-Ipsos poll found.
Democrats are favored over Republicans 49 percent to 36 percent.

polling came as disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to tax
evasion, fraud and corruption charges and agreed to aid a federal
investigation of members of Congress and other government officials.

Bush’s job approval remains low _ 40 percent in the AP-Ipsos poll, with
only one-third saying the country is headed in the right direction.
Bush also remains low on his handling of Iraq, where violence against
Iraqis and U.S. troops has been surging.

“I just don’t like the
direction our country is going in,” said Steve Brown, a political
independent from Olympia, Wash. “I think a balance of power would be
beneficial right now.”

Republicans are watching the situation unfold with some nervousness.

don’t think anyone is hitting the panic button,” said Rich Bond, a
former Republican National Committee chairman. “But there is an acute
recognition of the grim environment that both parties are operating in.”

the Democrats had any leadership or any message, they could be poised
for a good year,” Bond said. “But in the absence of that, they have not
been able to capitalize on Republican woes. Because of the size of the
GOP majority, Democrats have to run the board, and I don’t see that

The public’s unease with Republican leadership in the
White House and Congress creates a favorable environment for Democrats,
said Democratic consultant Dane Strother.

“The problem is you
don’t vote for a party,” Strother said. “You’re voting for a member of
Congress. And we’re a year away” from the midterm elections.

a third of the public, 34 percent, approves of the job Congress is
doing, and nearly twice as many _ 63 percent _ disapprove, according to
the poll of 1,001 adults taken Jan. 3-5. The margin of sampling error
was plus or minus 3 percentage points. Public opinion of both Democrats
and Republicans in Congress has been mixed, recent polling found.

one of the parties has done a very good job so far,” said Cristal
Mills, a political independent from Los Angeles. “They get away with
murder, they get paid to pass certain things. It’s the good ol’ boy

In the Senate, 33 seats will be on the ballot in
November, 17 of them currently in Democratic hands, 15 controlled by
Republicans, and one held by Sen. James Jeffords, a Vermont
independent. Democrats now have 44 Senate seats, and need to pick up
seven to gain a majority, six if Vermont independent Bernie Sanders
replaces Jeffords.

All 435 House seats are on the ballot this
fall, and Democrats need to gain at least 15 to become the majority
party and take control of the House.

While many House races are
noncompetitive, Republican strategists fear that fallout from the
Abramoff scandal will give Democrats fresh opportunity for gains. But
they dismiss suggestions that Democrats could take control of the House.

became the dominant party in the House in 1994, when the GOP picked up
more than 50 seats held by Democrats. In that midterm election,
Democrats won four open seats that previously were held by the GOP.

Forti, a spokesman for the GOP’s congressional campaign committee, said
about 30 House seats are competitive this year, compared with more than
100 a dozen years ago. Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, who heads the
Democrats’ campaign efforts, put the competitive number in 2006 at 42,
and he suggested ongoing scandals improve Democratic recruitment of
candidates by “making the environment more conducive. It helps move
them along in the process.”

Some say they want new leadership in Congress because of strong dissatisfaction with current policies.

get the strange feeling that we’re being sold down the river,” said
Paul Oulton, an independent from San Ramon, Calif. “We may be in line
for some very severe financial problems.

“Give me somebody
conservative with common sense. There’s too much left and too much
right. Give me somebody in the middle of the road.”


Associated Press Special Correspondent David Espo contributed to this story.

© 2006 The Associated Press