If you're a conservative, you can bet the serial abuser will be sweet-talking you into giving them one more chance. If you're a right-leaning moderate/centrist and can forgive them, they'll promise to act reasonably, and kick the habit. If you're a liberal, libertarian, independent or David Broderite who believes in comity and bipartisanship, they promise to kick your teeth in if you'll only smile and give them the opportunity.
Beset by discouraging polls and division within ideological ranks, the White House is accelerating efforts to woo back disaffected conservatives and energize the Republican base in a reprise of a strategy that succeeded in the last two campaign cycles.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney have given multiple interviews to conservative journalists, senior adviser Karl Rove has telephoned religious and social activists, and the White House has staged signing ceremonies for legislation cracking down on terrorism and illegal immigration. Two weeks before Election Day, Bush aides invited dozens of radio talk show hosts for a marathon broadcast from the White House yesterday to reach conservative listeners.
The message that Bush and others are sending to alienated supporters is that, no matter how upset they have been about various policies or political missteps over the past couple of years, life would be far worse under the Democrats.
They're not even talking to anyone else, just the base. While they've governed that way for years, they've jettisoned the figleaf of compassionate conservatism and are revealing the 35% strategy they live by. Smart politics?
Some conservatives said it is too late. "They honestly need a baseball bat against the head," said Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who helped Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) take over Congress in the 1990s. "Because if they don't change the lexicon immediately, as bad as this election is going to be, they're going to lose the presidency in 2008. I've given up on 2006. They've already made so many mistakes, there's no way they can fix it in two weeks. But I'm worried now they're going to lose all the marbles."
Comments by Weyrich and others suggest that conservatives have nowhere else to go, and some at least will come home. That may be true, but the problem for the WH isn't just conservatives. The rabid pack wil do what it always does, though less so than other years. But this election will be won or lost in the middle:
As candidates head into the final two weeks of midterm election campaigns, Democrats see an opportunity as wide as the Rocky Mountain skies. The question, here and elsewhere, is whether they can hold high ground in the place that matters most in 2006.
That place, oddly enough, appears to be the political center. Polls suggest Republicans so far have lost the center -- in overwhelming proportions. To maintain their grip on power in Congress, they need to find some way to woo a big chunk of it back in the next 17 days.
Iraq trumps talk radio with the middle, and moderate Dem candidates from MT to VA make it harder to paint the Dems as lefties. Talk radio and their proven ability to GOTV is what makes this race close, whatever the polls say. But don't be fooled; the GOP is making plenty of mistakes under pressure and though it's a professional GOTV outfit with great resources still (no matter how poorly they govern), they're sweating bullets at the WH these days. Keep working hard and make them sweat. Talk about balanced budgets, a change of course in Iraq and the need for responsible oversight. Give America what it wants - a real government that's interested in all of us, not just the talk radio crowd.
Gallup suggests the difference that doesn't exist between likely voter polls and registered voter polls (this year, there's no gap) portends less of a GOP GOTV effect. There's no way to know until election day (or the day after, if the new systems screw up), but that's less than two weeks away. And lying about ever having said "stay the course" won't win the election for the GOP.