Bush And GOP Gain Significantly In Newest Poll (UPDATED)

It is no longer a “given” that the Democrats will gain at least one house of Congress in the November elections — and the latest poll shows trend that should make Democrats nervous:

Amid falling gas prices and a two-week drive to highlight his administration’s efforts to fight terrorism, President Bush’s approval rating has risen to 44% in a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. That’s his highest rating in a year.

The poll also showed likely voters evenly divided between Democratic and Republican candidates for Congress, 48%-48%. Among registered voters, Democrats had a 51%-42% advantage.

With some 6 weeks to go before the election, if this trend continues, then a few weeks from now you would not be going out on a limb to predict the Republicans hold onto Congress:

The results come seven weeks before closely contested elections for control of Congress. Republicans have struggled to overcome problems, including Bush’s low ratings, continuing violence in Iraq and the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina.

They also come as terrorism is making headlines: an alleged plot to blow up planes headed from Britain to the USA, the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and weeks of focus by Bush and other top Republicans on terrorism and whether Democrats can protect the country.

The new findings reflect “a consistent, persistent, tenacious effort to make … the Republican Party’s ability to deal with terrorism the No. 1 issue in the campaign,” said political scientist Richard Eichenberg of Tufts University, who has studied presidential job ratings during wartime. He called it “a carbon copy” of the successful 2004 playbook.

It’s the trend of polls that’s most important. So far polls have shown a show climb by Bush and the Congressional GOP. If these trends continue future polls will likely show a GOP advantage. If there’s a significant terrorist incident before the elections of another threatening tape from Osama bin Laden that could solidify it.

The bottom line: this poll shows Bush and the GOP in ascension with the Democrats losing their one-time big poll advantage.

UPDATES:
– In yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, before this poll came out,Harvard History prof Niall Ferguson had an op-ed piece titled The GOP Will Hang On that said to ignore all the pundits (and blogs) — that the GOP will end the election still in control of Congress. Read it here.
Bull Moose notes that traditional Conservatives who had been recently talking about how good it’d be for the party to lose 2006 may now be disappointed — and how a Democratic win based on anti-Bush fervor won’t solve what he sees as internal Democratic party structural problems. He then writes:

The Moose urges all politicos to curb their enthusiasm. As much that is at stake in 2006, the election does not matter that much. Regardless of the outcome in November, the American people aren’t particularly thrilled with either party.

The question of the moment is which party will reform itself to appeal to a broader swath of the electorate in 2008, and be able to both win the Presidency and govern with a strong bi-partisan majority?

–Some other polls have shown other things.

Glenn Reynolds aka InstaPundit:”It was never really a given that the Dems would take back Congress, and these polls certainly don’t make it a given that they won’t. Beware of poll fever! In the short term, however, these polls may reduce the extent of GOP defection from Bush’s legislative agenda, which may actually help the Republicans hold on to Congress.”