World and Nation

GOP Voters Voice Anxieties on Party’s Fate; Iraq War Strategy

After years of political dominance, Republican voters now view their party as divided and say they are not satisfied with the choice of candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.

In a survey that brought to life the party’s anxieties about keeping the White House, Republicans said they were concerned that their party had drifted from the principles of Ronald Reagan, its most popular figure of the past 50 years.

Forty percent of Republicans said they expected Democrats to take control of the White House next year, compared with 46 percent who said they believed a Republican would win. By contrast, just 12 percent of Democrats said they thought the opposing party would take the White House next year.

Even as Republican voters continued to support President Bush and the war in Iraq, including the recent increase in the number of American troops deployed there, they said a candidate who backed Bush’s war policies would be at a decided disadvantage in 2008. And they suggested that they were open to supporting a candidate who broke with the president on a crucial aspect of his Iraq strategy: Asked what was more important to them in a nominee — a commitment to stay in Iraq until the United States succeeds or flexibility about when to withdraw — 58 percent of self-identified Republican primary voters said flexibility versus 39 percent who said a commitment to stay. The three leading Republican candidates are strong supporters of the war and the increase in American troops there.

The Times/CBS News Poll, which was designed to survey more Republicans than it normally would to provide a better statistical look at the mood of the party, found signs that it was uneasy about its future.

“There is going to be so much anti-war in the news media that there is no way the Republicans are going to win,” Randy Miller, 54, a Republican from Kansas, said in a follow-up interview after participating in the poll. “The Democrats will win because of the war. I think the Republicans just won’t vote.”