Poll: Two-thirds of Americans support Bush ultimatum
But country is worried
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With the nation on the brink of war, two-thirds of all Americans say they approve of President Bush's stark ultimatum to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and say they believe he did all he could to resolve the crisis diplomatically, according to a new CNN/USA TODAY/Gallup poll.
Still, the prospect of war left seven in 10 respondents feeling worried.
The poll, taken Monday night after the president's address to the nation, found that 66 percent of those polled said they approved of Bush's decision to go to war if Saddam does not leave Iraq by Wednesday night. And 68 percent said they thought the United States did all it could to resolve the crisis through diplomacy -- despite the failure to win another U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing force against Iraq.
The poll, however, also pointed to some doubt among the American public about the merits of going to war. Of the 66 percent who said they approve of Bush's decision, 21 percent said they were not sure it was the right thing to do, but they supported the president regardless.
More than one-third of the respondents said they believed the total number of people killed in any conflict, including Iraqis and Americans, would be high. Another 37 percent said the number of deaths would be moderate.
The poll was based on telephone interviews of 776 adults, aged 18 or older. The sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points, but polls conducted entirely in one day, as this one was, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days, poll experts said.
Saddam's 'final mistake'
Bush, meanwhile, remained out of sight Tuesday, making phone calls to world leaders and meeting with members of his Cabinet. He was, said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, "preparing for a possible war."
Bush's spokesman called Iraq's dismissal of the White House ultimatum as Saddam's "final mistake."
"Iraq has made a series of mistakes, including arming themselves with weapons of mass destruction, that have brought this crisis upon itself. This is the latest mistake Iraq could make; it will be Saddam Hussein's final mistake. The president still hopes he will take the ultimatum seriously and leave the country," Fleischer said.
On Capitol Hill, the routine political wrangling was increasingly colored by the prospect of war.
Democrats, while voicing support for U.S. armed forced, faulted the Bush administration for not providing an estimate of the war's cost in the White House budget proposal. And they stepped up criticism that now was not the time to consider tax cuts.
They were joined by a handful of Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
"I cannot in good conscience vote in favor of tax cuts, irrespective of their size, or to which segment of the population they are targeted," McCain. "Nor can I support any spending increases that are not related to improving our nation's defense from the obvious and serious threats facing us today."
On another front, the White House responded strongly to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle's comments Monday that Bush had failed "miserably" at diplomacy and thus has forced the United States to go to war with Iraq.
After reading a quote from the South Dakota Democrat last fall in which he urged that war not be "politicized," Fleischer said, "It's hard to assess what Senator Daschle means when his remarks are so inconsistent."
CNN White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux and Producer Christy Brennan contributed to this report.