The country right now is at war, our economy is bad, $455 billion dollar deficit, and the Democrats are saying: ‘How are we going to beat this guy?’

David Letterman on the Late Show, July 15, 2003

George W. Bush could be the first one-term U.S. President since, well, George H.W. Bush. In 1991, in the wake of the first Gulf War, Bush the elder set records in approval ratings — reaching 91 per cent in one poll. Less than two years later, Bill Clinton was in the White House.

Not so long ago, the current President Bush seemed unbeatable. The Republicans held onto to slim majorities in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in the mid-term 2002 elections. U.S. forces rolled into Baghdad, Mr. Bush introduced the second massive tax cut for the rich, his re-election campaign raised money in record quantities and the opposition Democrats seemed to be in disarray.

The U.S. media — spurred on by Rupert Murdochs pro-Bush partisans at Fox News — have been more or less transformed into a propaganda agency for the White House. Bush media friends organized blacklists of performers opposed to the President. Who could forget radio conglomerate Clear Channel Communications now notorious “CD burnings” targeting the country group The Dixie Chicks.

Mr. Bush and his team have acted in office as if they were beyond accountability. Republican partisans on the Federal Communications Commission overturned media monopoly regulations just as they allowed Enron to secretly author U.S. energy policies in the months after the 2000 election.

The past two months have illustrated just how ephemeral the Presidents support may be. The Presidents rationale for going to war has been exposed either as faulty or duplicitous, depending on your point of view. Much of the U.S. military seems to be stuck in Iraq with no end in sight. In two months, support for the war has fallen from 70% to 57% and dropping in this weeks ABC News poll.

The U.S. economy is also facing severe difficulties. Unemployment last month reached 6.4% — the highest level in nine years — and the U.S. Treasury is facing a record deficit as a direct result of the Presidents tax cuts. Having introduced a second tax cut package aimed at the wealthy, threatening popular government programs such social security and Medicare, the President has run out of options to spur economic growth. And the Chairman of Federal Reverse, Alan Greenspan, a partisan Republican, has already cut interest rates to record lows, with limited results.

Moreover, the American public, far from embracing Republican ideology on the economy, appears to be moving away from it.

In recent polls, by a greater than two-to-one margin, American voters would prefer more spending on education and social programs than the Bush tax cuts. A greater majority is concerned that the plan benefits the wealthy over Americans as a whole. As political analyst Ruy Teixeira wrote recently in Washington Monthly, “the fiscal damage wrought by tax cuts drains the economy, generates huge deficits and ensures that voters priorities cant be met: hardly a recipe for political dominance.”

The public has moved so far away from the Republicans tax cut agenda that Republican governors, such as Alabamas Bob Riley, are increasing taxes on the wealthy to pay for education spending increases.

The elements for a Bush defeat are in place, save one. Will the Democrats be able to deliver a credible and dynamic alternative? Over the past few weeks, and for the first time since September 11, 2001, leading Democratic contenders such as John Kerry have started to take on the President directly for his economic and foreign policy failures.

The saying “a week is a long time in politics” should give pause to anyone trying to predict the next U.S. election. However, one thing is clear: the result is very much in doubt. For those disgusted by the insular extremism of Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney and company, the increasing competitiveness of U.S. presidential politics should inspire hope.