The WaPo has an excellent piece today on the politics behind Bush's pick of Rep. Porter Goss to head the CIA:
A Republican political operative, who requested anonymity because of participation in the party's regular conference calls, said the president turned back to Goss because "poll data showed Kerry had closed the gap with Bush on handling of terrorism and was slightly ahead as fit to be commander in chief." The operative also said polls showed the president's embrace of the commission's suggestion for a new intelligence director "was not understood by the public." Goss had to be named "to show Bush was moving ahead."
If these poll numbers are true, then the Bush campaign must be in a state of panic. On just about every other issue, particularly the economy, Bush is well behind Kerry. Looking ahead, the Republicans will surely be looking to get a bounce out their convention, but that is likely to be as small and short-lived as Kerry's was after the Democratic convention. In addition, Republicans realize that undecided voters, though relatively few in number, will probably break for Kerry. That means Bush will likely go into the fall debates tied or a bit behind, and needing to score a strong win in order to change the dynamics of the campaign. We know that Bush does well in debates when expectations are low for him, but what about when they are high?
The clear sign that the handwriting is on the wall is when congressional Republicans running in close contests in key states start distancing themselves from Bush. In particular, look at the Republican Senate candidates in Florida, Colorado, Louisiana, and North Carolina. So far none of this has happened yet, but if it does, it will be a very bad omen for the Bush team.