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May 11, 2006


My favorite part from the Times article:

Just 13 percent approved of Mr. Bush's handling of rising gasoline prices.

Not 31 percent approval. 13 percent approval.

To me that's saying that Bush's core base, or "floor," is even softer than it looks. And not taxes, not immigration, not health care, not Iraq, but everyday gas prices are the key to their ballots.

Of course I sure wouldn't mind a candidate with good ideas on the rest too.

speaking of which, two comments, one on the base, one on national vs local elections. From today's Note:

2006: House: Despite the NRCC's Carl Forti saying "People are totally comfortable with criticizing Congress but then voting for their congressman," the Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes writes that 2006 is "shaping up to be different."

"Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan election analyst, says there is no doubt 2006 is a nationalized election year that threatens a wipeout for the party in power. Republican pollster David Winston argues that in an Internet age of Web blogs, talk radio and cable news, all politics henceforth are national, not local. 'We are going to play in a national arena this fall, not a local sandlot,' he wrote recently in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper."

"In a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, likely voters by 49% to 30% said that national issues will be more important in their decisions than their representative's local record. That is unusually high; by contrast, just before the 1994 midterm wave drove Democrats from power in Congress, a slight majority still said local issues were more important."

and from Peggy Noonan, of all people:

Party leaders are showing a belief in process as opposed to a belief in, say, belief. But belief drives politics. It certainly drives each party's base.

One gets the impression party leaders, deep in their hearts, believe the base is . . . base. Unsophisticated. Primitive. Obsessed with its little issues. They're trying to educate the base. But if history is a guide, the base is about to teach them a lesson instead.

Via Laura Rozen, Howard Fineman sees a Rove strategy of desperation, scaring the public about what a Democratic return to pwoer would mean.

Rather than defend Bush, Rove will seek to rally the Republicans’ conservative grassroots by painting Democrats as the party of tax increases, gay marriage, secularism and military weakness. That’s where the national message money is going to be spent.

Shades of 1972, and "acid, amnesty and abortion". the 20th century incarnation of "rum, Romanism and rebellion".

The question is whether it will work. I doubt it, since the alternative has been on view for going on 6 years now. 1972 was the presidential year; it was 2004. This is 1974, the year the Dems took back so many seats on the heels of Watergate. I think that saying that electing the Dems will mean investigations is not a negative for the Dems; it is a positive, given how the indies hate Bush too.

It does underscore the potency of the "common good" or "we're all in this together" theme for the Dems, because it is the appropriate counter to the "sauve qui peut" (sal si puedes) mentality of the Republicans, and hits a positive note.

I also do buy the silent majority of Democratic policy supporters concept. At some point, people are going to get pissed when their mother's prescription plan runs into donuts in September.

I think it's a powerful theme that takes care of Peggy's concerns. Now she'sll feel comfortable voting D. Not

But normal folks will.

One gets the impression party leaders, deep in their hearts, believe the base is . . . base. Unsophisticated. Primitive. Obsessed with its little issues.

On that note I liked what Sean Patrick Maloney said in this Times piece (in fact I like almost everything I've heard him say):

"People respond to passion and substance. And if you show what's in your heart, people will respond to that. People want something new and something fresh. But you need show up with something positive and substantive.

"You need to be real, because voters are smarter than we give them credit for being."

Would that that spirit leaches upward to the party leaders -- or failing that, that folks who think like Maloney talks become the new leaders.

Thanks, Mimikatz for the Fineman link. if anyone doubts that he's a complete dork, this should be enough data. Sure, it's nice of him to tell us what we all know, but it's the last line that shows the complete in-over-his-head character of Fineman's analysis.

Bush and Rove are daring the Democrats to turn the nomination of Gen. Michael Hayden as head of the CIA into a fight over the president’s secret eavesdropping program. That’s a fight they think they can win politically, by turning a legitimate constitutional issue into another Us v. Them morality play.

It’s worked before.

Sure it has. Nothing's changed since 2001, Howard, has it? And WTF will you have left to write about if Karl's indicted? How many more 'Rove is brilliant and ruthless' articles will you churn out?

more from R Bl;ogistan (via Howard Kurtz):

Are conservatives in full retreat? Just check out this National Review piece by Kate O'Beirne and Rich Lowry:

"In response to a recent jump in gas prices, congressional Republicans reacted in characteristic fashion. They panicked, touted bad policy, and did themselves political harm, all in a spectacle seemingly designed to disgust the conservatives who had voted them into office. This has been a familiar pattern in recent years. The talk of Washington has been about the "shakeup" in the White House and what administration official -- Dick Cheney? Don Rumsfeld? John Snow? -- should be sacked to help turn around the national GOP's fortunes. We survey this scene and find ourselves asking, Is it Congress that should be fired?

"President Bush deserves some of the blame for the rotten results from Congress -- sometimes, he has affirmatively pushed bad policy (most recently with his 'comprehensive' immigration reform), and he has made it his standard operating procedure not to try seriously to rein in congressional excess. There is no doubt that his coordination with Capitol Hill could be better, and the inability of his team to anticipate political problems -- such as the Dubai ports-deal mess -- has made life more difficult than it need be for his fellow Republicans. But the GOP in Congress acts as if establishing a smoother White House operation were the key to eliminating all its troubles. In reality, the locus of the national party's malaise is as much, perhaps more, on Capitol Hill than in the Bush administration . . .


The deterioration has steadily gotten worse. The Republican majority has lately been notable for its bungling, fecklessness, self-serving defensiveness, and hysteria — sometimes all at once. The congressional majority has repudiated Republican governance before voters even have the chance to do the same this November.

The pulse is there to be taken...Republicans are putting a vast distance between themselves and the Bush administration. And, finally realizing that there is a symbiotic relationship between their vote, the Congress and their President. The Internet has given ordinary voters the ability to see how all this works. I detect a great sense of frustration on the part of the voting Republican majority, but not the will to admit their mistakes. My guess is that many Republicans will stay home come Nov. This is the time for the Dems to 'get out the vote'.

bboop, that's what Fineman is noting. The difference is he still thinks it'll work.

The subtext is all about whose base is more "energized."

'It does underscore the potency of the "common good" or "we're all in this together" theme for the Dems, because it is the appropriate counter to the "sauve qui peut" (sal si puedes) mentality of the Republicans, and hits a positive note.'

A minor point, but the Spanish equivalent of 'sauve qui peut' is 'sálvese quien pueda.'

I always enjoy speculating on voter motivations. I think the entire country, with some areas more than others, are more cynical about politics than the commentariat and politicians believe. This may mean that with a tipping point, a significant few normally partisan loyalists will vote to throw the bums out. Many people who have voted R in the past did so not out of love, but more of a "lesser of two evils." Easy to see how some could flip.

And external signs, not so prominent in late '04, grease the skids for this kind of attitude change - Iraq, gas prices, the link between Iraq and gas prices, and the drip drip of the job market on all but lower level service sectors. Plus ever escalating costs in health care, education, etc.

Re: the orig post, I think there is no way to avoid voters giving undue credit to a politician who benefits from circumstance and effectively utilizes message and the press. Too much credit always goes to Presidents. This is not changeable and the whole experience with Bush is very repeatable....unless D's become a solid majority in the next 10 years or so. The aim must be to truly restore some level of trust in government. It can be done over time, and a popular reform-minded President will do wonders.

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