Those with dreams – or nightmares – of George Bush gliding through the 2004 elections into a second term have been snapped into reality by a cascade of recent polls.

Every major national survey taken in the last three weeks has shown Bush’s approval rating at its lowest point since the September 11 attacks. Some have recorded Bush’s lowest marks since he took office.

Prominent pollster Ruy Teixeira observed that Bush’s ratings on domestic policies are “truly abysmal,” even on signature issues like tax cuts and prescription drug coverage. Iraqi ratings are just as discouraging. The majority of Americans consistently opposes Bush’s request for $87 billion and says that he lacks a clear plan for rebuilding Iraq.

At the same point in his presidency, single-termer George H.W. Bush was scoring approval ratings 10 to 15 points higher than young Dubya. It’s not surprising, then, that top-ranking Democratic presidential nominees are defeating the current president when placed in hypothetical one-on-one contests.

Who knew George Bush would be America’s next Gray Davis?

But I digress; your humble columnist isn’t one to gloat. In fact, I couldn’t help thinking of how our upstanding local Republican youth was taking the sour news.

Suddenly, news of the polls hits. At a loss, our conservative consort jets over to Rush Limbaugh’s Montecito pad for some soothing black-market painkillers. Rush is already junked up on OxyCortins, but the two calm each other while downing hydrocodone and recounting memories from Rush’s illustrious four-week run at ESPN.

Naturally, I found this scene deeply disturbing, and I wanted to help. What better way, I thought, than to suggest a few helpful electoral strategies?

My initial advice was simple: Take September 11 to the bank! Sure, all that death and suffering might lose some solemnity when it’s wielded as a campaign prop, but “never forget” those glorious post-9/11 approval ratings! George, it’s 9/11 24/7 from here on out, got it?

Clearly, Bush was two steps ahead. As the Washington Post points out, “Bush has cited 9/11 in arguing for his energy policy and in response to questions about campaign fundraising, tax cuts, unemployment, the deficit, airport security, Afghanistan and the length, cost and death toll of the Iraq occupation.”

Plus, GOP heavies have scheduled the 2004 National Republican Convention in New York City during the first week of September, the latest dates in the party’s history. New Yorkers have been predictably cold toward this heartfelt Republican tribute. Newsday released a poll in late September in which a quarter of state Republicans said they would not vote for Bush in ’04.

My next thought was to suggest an inflammatory cultural wedge issue. Luckily, I happened to open the Washington Times to read about GOP consultant Robert Knight’s “private e-mail message to fellow conservatives” about gay rights. He told Republican operatives to “make [gays] a huge issue” in 2004.

Bush, though, had beaten us to the punch. At the NYC convention, the Republican Party will officially call for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting gay marriage, and Bush recently declared the week following National Coming Out Day to be “Marriage Protection Week.”

Then I suggested celebrating phony positive economic news, only to find Bush touting a report showing the first positive job gains in months. Unfortunately for the jobless, the report data was compiled during the week that Hurricane Isabel prevented hundreds of thousands from filing their unemployment claims.

Next, I suggested rattling our sabers at a country with brown-skinned people. How was I to know that Deputy Sec. of State John Bolton had just warned that the “threat [from Iran] has to be eliminated” and that diplomatic moves by Iran to calm relations were just “sand in our eyes?”

So I say, cheer up Republicans! George Bush has one hot campaign in the works, and he’s obviously ready to go to any lengths to win over the American electorate in 2004. I wonder, sometimes, though – are Americans ready for George Bush’s campaign?

Nico Pitney is a senior global studies major.