President Bushs public standing, on a downward trend all summer, has slid to its lowest point since the Sept. 11 attacks two years ago, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows. (Related story: Poll results)

Due in large part to an economy that continues to lose jobs and a situation in Iraq (news - web sites) that is messier and more costly than the administration predicted, Bush is taking a hit.

A thin majority, 52%, approve of the overall job he is doing, down from this year's high of 71% in mid-April, when the war in Iraq still had a glow of victory.

It's even further from his 90% job approval rating in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Bush gets his lowest marks on the economy; fewer than half approve of his stewardship. The president got further bad news Thursday with a report that claims for unemployment benefits increased last week.

Bush says often that other economic indicators suggest the outlook is bright and that his tax cuts will soon create more jobs. "When Americans have more take-home pay to spend people are more likely to find a job," he said Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale.

Democratic pollster Mark Mellman says Bush "has benefited from circumstances beyond his control. Now reality is setting in."

Bush's slippage suggests that if the election were held today, he would be in a tough fight. Among registered voters, he holds a slim 4-percentage point lead over an unnamed Democrat. He had a double-digit lead two weeks ago.

"Taking a fall was inevitable, but he is increasingly vulnerable now," says Jaime Regalado, a political scientist at California State University at Los Angeles.

On Iraq, where the news has been dominated by continued attacks on U.S. troops, 51% approve of Bush's management. Public satisfaction with the way things are going there has fallen below 50% for the first time, to 47%.

"The war in Iraq is showing escalating costs in money and human life, and the American public is showing escalating doubts," Regalado says.

After a nationally televised speech Sunday night in which Bush called Iraq the "central front" in the war on terrorism, more than half say his administration does not have a clear plan for handling the situation there.

Most still say Iraq was worth going to war over, but that support has dwindled, too, in the five months since a statue of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) fell in Baghdad.

Still, two in three give Bush high marks for his leadership in the overall war on terrorism.

Americans continue to have more confidence in Republicans than Democrats to keep the nation safe from terrorism and other military threats, by 51%-36%.

" With all that anti-war rhetoric, the Democrats are appealing only to their core voters," Republican pollster Bill McInturff says.