WASHINGTON — As President Bush mulls what to do after
winning re-election, voters say his first priority should be
resolving the situation in Iraq, where the fighting is growing more
intense.

Eston Bond
A Fallujah resident is cared for in a hospital in the insurgent-held city of Fallujah, Iraq, on Friday following a U.S. airstrike. American jets struck Fallujah with five air raids in 12 hours, preparing for an expected major assault on the insurgent stro

They also want Bush to cut the deficit, which ballooned under
his watch, rather than pushing for more tax cuts, according to an
Associated Press poll taken right after the election.

The voters’ concerns stood in contrast to the priorities
Bush cited after he defeated Democrat John Kerry. Bush pledged to
aggressively pursue major changes in Social Security, tax laws and
medical malpractice awards. Terrorism was a chief concern both for
Bush and many voters in the poll.

“I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and
now I intend to spend it,” Bush said a day after becoming the
first president in 68 years to win re-election and gain seats in
both the House and Senate.

Some 27 percent of respondents named Iraq as the top priority
for the president’s second term, ahead of issues such as
terrorism, the economy and health care.

Only 2 percent named taxes as a priority. By more than a 2-to-1
margin, voters said they preferred that the president balance the
budget rather than reduce taxes further.

After a campaign dominated by discussion of Iraq and terrorism,
national security issues are at the top of voters’ concerns
along with the economy. Voters were asked to pick from a list of
issues in the AP poll that included Iraq, terrorism, the economy,
unemployment, health care, education and taxes.

Many voters on Election Day indicated they were also concerned
about “moral values” — a broader concern than
specific issues such as health care and education.

Republicans ranked terrorism first on the list, followed by Iraq
and the economy as priorities for Bush. Democrats were most likely
to name Iraq, followed by the economy and health care while
independents picked Iraq and then terrorism, according to the poll
conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs.

“He has to go 500 percent in Iraq,” said Ruth
Shoemaker, an independent and a retiree from Chula Vista, Calif.
“That’s why I voted for the president.”

Seven in 10 voters, including a majority of Democrats, would
prefer that U.S. troops stay in Iraq until the country is stable,
instead of having them leave immediately.

U.S. troops are preparing for assaults on insurgent strongholds
used as havens for those mounting increased attacks against
coalition forces.

“There has got to be some kind of resolution in
Iraq,” said Erwin Neighbors, a Republican and a community
college teacher from Moberly, Mo. “We can’t fold our
tent without accomplishing our goals.”

On the domestic front, Bush says his plans to overhaul the tax
laws would be “revenue-neutral” and would not cut
taxes. Throughout the past year, however, he has urged Congress to
make earlier tax cuts permanent.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office now sees $2.3
trillion in accumulated deficits over the next 10 years. That does
not include the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Given the choice between balancing the budget and cutting taxes,
voters chose balancing the budget by 66 percent to 31 percent. Just
over half of Republicans as well as most Democrats and independents
felt that way.

When the choice is between balancing the budget and spending
more on education, health care and economic development, voters
were divided. Slightly more wanted the additional domestic
spending, 55 percent, than balancing the budget, 44 percent.

During his second term, Bush is likely to have an opening on the
Supreme Court; Chief Justice William Rehnquist is seriously ill
with cancer.

Six in 10 voters say they are comfortable that the president
will nominate the right kind of person to serve on the court. Bush
has sidestepped questions about who he would name if there were an
opening.

But three-fourths of Democrats are uncomfortable with a
potential Bush nomination to the high court.

“I’m very worried,” said Carla Matlin, a
Democrat and a marketing manager from the San Francisco area.
“I’m afraid that, rather than mainstream judges, Bush
will appoint judges that are way over on the right.”

Asked whether Bush should appoint a justice who will uphold or
overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that protected a woman’s
right to abortions, six in 10 said they want a justice who will
uphold the landmark ruling.

The AP-Ipsos poll of 844 registered voters was taken Nov. 3 to 5
and has a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points.

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