A Collection of Thoughts

GOP ’08 – How many Anti-Bush’s will there be?
December 9, 2005, 1:34 am
Filed under: General

As Republicans scurry to avoid having to take responsibility for what appears to be a tenuous political map in 2006, there’s a far larger problem looming after the 2006 elections.The quasi-parliamentary system that the Republican majority has built is entirely dependent on delivering votes for Bush, who in turn blesses his popularity and cash onto down ticket Republicans. The system works wonderfully in 2002 and partly in 2004 in consolidating the Republican position. Mark Schmidt describes the system beautifully at his site, but like the English parliamentary system the performance of the prime minister can completely scuttle the image of the party.

Inside the 36 positive/ 60 negative view that the country has of Bush, Bush is plummeting with “traditional Republicans? in state after state, especially in places where Republican hopefuls have to campaign for the nomination in 2008.

There are two composites of these voters that most reporters have not begun to fully grasp just yet.

First, despite the best wishes of Republican activists, these voters are not more conservative than Bush. If you look at polling from some of the hot button issues from the last year, it’s been voters who safely vote Republican but can’t be considered part of the religious right, the anti-tax right, or the “kill the poor right.?

In my opinion, the thrust of the Bush campaign that was so successful in 2004 was the ability to reassure the far right without turning off moderate voters who if they were presented the same message would have quickly turned against the Bush/Cheney ticket. After a series of losses where Republicans reached for what they promised, the moderate Republicans soured and pushed back.

So on Privatizing Social security; solid majorities, including a large number of Republicans, didn’t want privatization. Despite Bush’s 2004 margin of 51%, Social security privatization plummeted to the mid 20s. On Terry Schiavo, most independents and even Republicans felt that the Republicans were overreaching for the religious right.

Even on Alito where the White House has tried to temper the message on Alito, (read, he’s not conservative, he won’t vote to overturn Roe, he really didn’t mean he didn’t believe in one person one vote), solid majorities of Americans would reject Alito if they felt he would overturn Roe.

On issue after issue where Bush was able to stand behind Frank Luntz styled phrases during the ’04 election his proposals are widely rejected when meat is added to the bones. (Consequently, the message here may be that if your idea of persuasion is to change the language your converts and polling advantage may be superficial.)

The problem for the Republican ticket isn’t just in ’06 states with targeted Republican members of Congress and the Senate. The problem is that anyone thinking about running for president in 2008 has to sit down with their general consultant and pollster and find that voters in Republican primaries want someone who isn’t like Bush.

Poll after poll through the year has shown Republicans, mostly moderate Republicans, have started to lose faith in the man that the blog of the year once referred to as “A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius?.

A recent poll of Iowa voters (PDF) found that Republicans found only 10% thought that Bush is doing an excellent job, with 35% giving him a fair or poor rating.

In New Hampshire where Independents will outnumber Republicans in the primary, only 26% of Republicans and 68% of independents disapproved of the job Bush was doing as president. In South Carolina, the third state in the nominating schedule for Republicans a full 24% of Republican thought Bush was doing a bad job.

To think that I went through four years without ever seeing these numbers go above 10%.

The bad numbers continue into the Super Tuesday states, but the narrative Republican candidates are going to live and die by will have been secured by the South Carolina primary.

So the question over the next two years is how much disarray does this create for Republicans running in 2008? If you’re a general consultant or a pollster for a Republican presidential candidate how far do you run away from Bush, and most important it looks like the question won’t be whether there’s going to be an anti-Bush in the Republican primary in ’08, it’s a question of how many Republicans want to play the part.