Erosion in Confidence in Bush Will Be Hard To Reverse, Say Pollsters, Strategists

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Three years of upbeat White House assessments about Iraq that turned out to be premature, incomplete or plain wrong are complicating President Bush's efforts to restore public faith in the military operation and his presidency, according to pollsters and Republican lawmakers and strategists.

The last two weeks have provided a snapshot of White House optimism that skeptics contend is at odds with the facts on the ground in Iraq.

Vice President Cheney said Sunday that his 10-month-old claim that the insurgency was in its "last throes" was "basically accurate" and reflects reality. Since Cheney's original comment, on at least 70 days there have been violent attacks that in each instance killed more than 10 people. Two weeks ago, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the United States is making "very, very good progress" -- less than 48 hours before the U.S ambassador warned of a possible civil war breaking out. And Bush yesterday said his optimism flows in part from success in Tall Afar, a city in northern Iraq, though local residents there said sectarian violence is spreading.

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