In what may turn out to be one of the biggest free-falls in the history of presidential polling, President Bush's job-approval rating among African Americans has dropped to 2 percent, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.At least now we know where the floor really is.
So this morning, I called Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff, to get a better sense of the significance of the results.
"African Americans were not supporters, but I don't think that they outright detested him -- until now," Hart said. "The actions in and around Katrina persuaded African Americans that this was a president who was totally insensitive to their concerns and their needs."
Hart said he has never seen such a dramatic drop in presidential approval ratings, within any subgroup.
This latest poll included 807 people nationwide, and only 89 blacks. As a result, there is a considerable margin or error -- and the findings should not be considered definitive until or unless they are validated by other polls.
David Bositis, a senior political analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which tracks African American public opinion, told me this morning that it's clear that Bush's job approval among blacks "has taken a hit from both the ongoing things in Iraq and what happened with Katrina."
But down to 2 percent? "I doubt that it's actually 2," he said.
"But would I be surprised if it's 10 or 12? No." And 10, he said, is typically "about as low as you can go" when it comes to approval ratings.
And while we're at it, more evidence of blood in the water:
Bush this morning participated in a video teleconference with U.S. troops in Iraq.
In a scene reminiscent of his carefully staged domestic town meetings, part of the session was devoted to questions and answers -- with Bush asking the questions. And the answers all seemed, well, quite scripted.
As Tom Raum writes in his initial report for the Associated Press: "'Do the Iraqis want to fight, and are they capable of fighting?' he asked. He was told they were."
I've got to wonder: Will later reports on this photo op describe how the participants were selected and prepped? How did they know just what to say? What about all those unpleasant facts that tend to belie Bush's optimistic rhetoric?
On CNN, at least, Jamie McIntyre injected this note of cynicism: "Obviously," he said. "this format was not a format for a frank exchange of views."