George Bush's standing in North Carolina is on the rise, but state residents remain deeply divided about the president.
A new statewide survey conducted for the Civitas Institute found that 50 percent of North Carolinians approve of the job Bush is doing, while 48 percent disapprove.
But Bush's numbers have climbed since spring, when his approval rating had slipped to as low as 40 percent.
Bush's rising numbers in North Carolina echo recent national polls. Bush, who twice carried North Carolina, has always polled better here than nationally.
Jack Hawke, president of Civitas, attributed Bush's improved standing to a drop in gasoline prices and to the recent anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In recent days, Bush has been highlighting his administration's anti-terrorism efforts.
You could almost hear the sigh of relief when the poll results were presented Wednesday to a packed luncheon at the Clarion Hotel in downtown Raleigh on Wednesday. The luncheon had a a large delegation of Republican legislative candidates. The poll gave Republicans some hope that Bush will not be a drag on the GOP ticket.
Hawke, a former state GOP chairman, said several weeks ago he thought the Democrats "were on the verge of sweeping the election." But now he is not so sure.
Republicans also hope to gain control of the Democratic-controlled legislature by taking advantage of the controversies surrounding House Speaker Jim Black.
The survey found that 49 percent wanted to replace Black with new Republican leaders in the House. But Bill Lee, president of TelOpinion Research of Alexandria, Va., which conducted the poll, said running against Black was not a sure way for Republicans to regain control of the legislature.
"It is an issue, but not decisive in of itself," Lee said.
Lee said there is dissatisfaction with incumbents, and Black could be made into "an icon" for change.
One issue that is a sure thing, Lee said, is illegal immigration. The poll shows growing opposition to immigration, an issue that GOP candidates have been emphasizing.
But issues stressed by Democrats, such as improving public education and health care, remain high on voter's lists, Lee said. The poll was conducted Sept. 11-15 of 800 North Carolinians who voted in the past two elections. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
States' rights: Guard
Members of North Carolina's congressional delegation are responding to Gov. Mike Easley's request to help keep National Guard control in the hands of governors during times of natural disasters.
Nine members of the delegation, led by U.S. Rep. David Price of Chapel Hill, wrote letters on the issue this week to the Republican chairmen and Democratic ranking members of the House and Senate armed services committees.
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican, wrote a similar letter to the Senate committee chairman.
The letters ask leaders to reject language in the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow the president to assume control of Guard units in times of natural disaster or catastrophe.
National Guard soldiers, the part-time citizen soldiers called up on a temporary basis, now fall under governors' jurisdiction. In North Carolina, Easley has used them liberally in response to hurricanes, and he has offered them to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina and to national service in guarding the border between Arizona and Mexico.
Easley, who is the lead governor on National Guard issues for the National Governors Association, is adamantly opposed to the provision. He and the nation's other governors say the provision would confuse the chain of command and could jeopardize states' abilities to protect their communities.
By staff writers Rob Christensen and Barbara Barrett. Christensen can be reached at 829-4532 or firstname.lastname@example.org.