Opinion: California to Bush: Nice to see you. Goodbye.


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It took a massive conflagration, but President Bush will fly through the smoke and visit Southern California today. He issued a federal disaster declaration, authorizing FEMA to provide extra help to the counties stricken by the wind-driven wildfires. He’s here to see firsthand what’s left of the fires and the smoldering damage.

Presidents are supposed to visit disaster areas soon afterward, not because it actually does anything other than provide TV film footage, but just because. Even the campaigns of presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have issued yada-yada news releases saying their hearts and prayers go out to Southern Californians, which they hope gets them a mention in a blog or somewhere. (UPDATE: Other campaigns such as Mitt Romney’s have written in to note they too have sympathetically noted the fires in various ways.)

And here to greet the president this morning is a new Field Poll showing that a large majority of Californians really don’t approve of the job he’s doing.


Californians haven’t been voting for Republican presidents for some time -- the last four presidential elections, to be exact. So you won’t likely see a whole lot of the GOP presidential nominee in 2008 after the primary. Bush’s efforts here in 2000 were really just political feints to force Al Gore to spend some time and money on defense.

Not that the embattled president has enjoyed positive ratings anywhere in recent months, but the new Field Poll of 1,201 registered Golden State voters between Oct. 11-21 shows that 63% of Californians don’t approve of the job he’s doing, whereas 27% approve. Many of the approvers are around San Diego (33%) and the Central Valley (34%).

Before the 9/11 attacks, Bush’s approval rating here was at 42%, soaring to 74% after, but has been declining steadily since 2003, when, not coincidentally, the Iraq war started. Here’s a shocker: 85% of Democrats and 72% of independents disapprove of Bush, whereas 33% of Republicans disapprove and 53% approve.

Whites (30%), Asians (34%), males (30%), high school graduates (30%) and strong conservatives (57%) approve of him the most, whereas blacks (13%), post-grads (22%), females (25%), strong liberals (6%) and Los Angeles County residents (20%) approve the least.

The Iraq war remains the biggest issue hurting his approval rating. Only 24% approve statewide, down from 60% in April 2003.

Other than that and the smoke, things are looking fine here for the president.

-- Andrew Malcolm