The shock is that the numbers are as high as they are. What does he have to say or do to alienate the other 45%?

Fewer than half of Republicans, 45 percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll, now approve of how Bush is handling immigration, down from 61 percent in April  that’s a 16-point drop in six weeks. Just 35 percent of conservatives approve, down from 48 percent.

This marks one of the few times in his presidency Bush has received less than 50 percent approval from members of his own party on any issue in an ABC/Post poll. On handling the Iraq War, for comparison, he’s never gone below 62 percent approval from Republicans.

Kaus thinks Bush’s rhetoric about amnesty opponents not wanting to do “what’s right for America” is part of his Lincoln strategy, whereby this becomes a racial issue and he becomes the Great Emancipator of illegal aliens with Republicans rewarded for decades to come with grateful Mexicans’ votes. In an earlier post he calls the strategy “insane,” which of course it is: why would any illegal alien, however grateful, vote with a party denounced by its leader and his cronies as filled with racists, “nativists,” and fans of capital punishment for border-crossing? The strategy only makes sense if you assume Bush doesn’t care at all about the fortunes of the party and is simply trying to build a personal legacy. But what are the odds of that?

Meanwhile, WaPo says the bill’s supporters are optimistic. But what to make of this?

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) will push to move up the date before which the backlog of family-based immigration applications would have to be processed by the Department of Homeland Security, adding 833,000 immigrants. Kyl said he will withdraw his support for the bill if the amendment passes.

He also said he will walk away if Menendez and Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) win passage of an amendment that would more than double the number of green cards available under the bill for the parents of U.S. citizens. Kyl said conservatives believe today’s family unification system is being misused by illegal immigrants, whose U.S.-born children are citizens.

I assume this is just his way of putting the strong amnesty supporters on notice that if they want him to cave on these amendments, he needs something back. Kaus notes an AP report that hints at one possibility — a toughening of … the meaningless, moronic “touchback” requirement, which, by the way, is opposed by 56% of those who support legalization according to the new ABC poll. It’s worth flagging this now, though, so that we can “remind” Kyl later when his line in the sand is crossed and he doesn’t do jack about it.

Since I’m cribbing so much from Kaus, I owe him a link for this. The unified field theory of major Bush policy initiatives!

Update: Politico remembers a gentler time, when the word “amnesty” slipped freely from the lips of straight-talkin’ mavericks like John McCain. The year: 2003.