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Press the Advantage

11:01 AM, Aug 22, 2006 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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Today's USA Today/Gallup http://poll.gallup.com/ target=_blank>poll shows an up tick in the president's approval rating. It's now 42 percent, "suggesting that more positive evaluations of Bush could be tied to his handling of terrorism." Other polls also show a GOP advantage on security-related issues. An AP poll conducted well before the news of the latest terror bomb plot found:

One bright spot for the GOP is that Republicans hold an advantage over Democrats on issues such as foreign policy and fighting terrorism _ 43 percent to 33 percent _ and a smaller edge on handling Iraq _ 36 percent to 32 percent.

The AP-Ipsos poll was conducted after the divisive Democratic debate in the Senate over setting a timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq. Potential voters were paying attention to the GOP complaint that Democrats want to "cut and run."

"It seems like the Democrats want to pull out or start to pull out, and I don't think that's the correct thing to do," said Eric Bean, 24, a college minister in Fort Worth, Texas. "I'd much rather see a Congress that would support our president. I think George Bush is doing the best he can. I think Republicans will support him."

As I have noted before, if Democrats were hitting Republicans from the right on national security, the GOP would be in far deeper trouble. But naturally they're not, which gives Republicans an opening to schedule as many security-related votes (with lots of debate) as possible before November 7. Also, Ned Lamont will likely say a lot of things before election day that will help make the GOP's case against the Democrats. Republicans should nationalize his comments as much as possible and note all the major Democrats who are actively campaigning for Lamont against the hawkish Lieberman. Americans aren't going to buy the Frank Rich line (see Sunday's New York Times) that the Lamont Democrats really are tough as nails on the terror front.