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GOP memo predicts drop in Bush poll numbers

Missive urges Republicans to maintain perspective

By Sean Loughlin
CNN Washington Bureau

President Bush's approval rating is as high as the 70 percent range in some polls.
President Bush's approval rating is as high as the 70 percent range in some polls.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A GOP memo distributed to Republicans across the country predicts that President Bush's high approval ratings will soon "drop to more realistic levels" and that some polls may show him behind Democratic rivals, but cautions that such a development should not be cause for alarm.

The memo comes from Matthew Dowd, a senior adviser for the Republican National Committee, who tells fellow Republicans that the expected drop in approval ratings will likely prompt "a chorus of 'the sky is falling.' "

But that, Dowd writes, is not the case, and he urges his party colleagues to keep their cool in the weeks and months ahead.

"Every incumbent president in the last 25 years has been behind the opposition in the latter part of his first term -- the sky is not falling," Dowd writes.

The memo and a cover letter were sent out this week by former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, chairman of the RNC.

"It is important to note that the inevitable political posturing by Democrats and pundits will ebb and flow based on the rise and fall of some numbers, but the leadership and the resolve of this president will always remain," Racicot said.

The memo comes as more media and political attention is shifting away from the war in Iraq to domestic matters within the United States, especially the economy. And the advice to Republicans is being offered amid heightened campaign activity on the part of the nine announced Democratic candidates seeking to win their party's presidential nomination in 2004.

The Democratic hopefuls have grown increasingly vocal in their criticism of Bush, especially for his handling of the economy and his proposal for more tax cuts.

The memo says the Democratic base can be expected to solidify in the months ahead, and that Bush's approval ratings -- currently in the high 60 percent to low 70 percent range, according to various polls -- are unlikely to stay so high. Dowd has written similar memos in the past, when Bush's approval numbers were high.

The memo points to prior campaigns and administrations to make the point that any drop should not be perceived as a sign of trouble for the Bush White House.

For example, the memo says President Reagan was behind Democrat Walter Mondale by as many as nine points throughout much of 1983. Reagan won in a landslide in 1984. And Vice President George Bush -- the president's father -- was behind in several polls by as much as 17 points against Democrat Michael Dukakis in 1988. Bush went on to win the White House.

"As the inevitable discussion proceeds in the months ahead, this memo should provide both perspective and a reality check. President Bush's approval numbers will again fall back to more realistic levels fairly quickly," Dowd writes, predicting that the poll numbers and changes in the upcoming months will be similar to those experienced by Presidents Bush, Clinton and Reagan. "All were quite successful on Election Day."

--CNN Senior Political Researcher Robert Yoon contributed to this report.


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