Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Second Verse, Same As the First

With the president's poll numbers in a free fall, and Republican dissent emerging in Congress, Democrats are setting to run the 2006 campaign as a referendum on Bush's policies. Republican party strategists, however, think they know the key to winning in the fall: turn out the base.

As Fred Barnes, in an article for The Weekly Standard, outlines it:
House Republicans, for their part, intend to seek votes on measures such as the Bush-backed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a bill allowing more public expression of religion, another requiring parental consent for women under 18 to get an abortion, legislation to bar all federal courts except the Supreme Court from ruling on the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance, a bill to outlaw human cloning, and another that would require doctors to consider fetal pain before performing an abortion.
There couldn't be a better testament than this agenda to the fact that Bush's capital is - spent. And although it sounds arrogant and even risky to run on an agenda that is so marginalizing when the largest disaffection in recent polls has been among moderate Republicans, the truth is that the RNC has no choice. They are paying the price now for the incredible party discipline of the last five years. The Republican congressional leadership followed Bush doctrine in lockstep right up to the edge of the cliff, and there is no backing away now.
"Dave Sachett of the Tarrance Group said, in a memo to Mehlman, that distancing oneself from the president is a "flawed strategy" and would not protect a Republican candidate "from the generic backlash against the administration or the congressional leadership." Rather, it would turn the campaign into "a national referendum on President Bush and the policies of the administration and the congressional leadership"-- just what Republicans fear in 2006. Jan van Lohuizen of Voter/Consumer Research said a campaign that becomes a referendum on Bush could also chill Republican voter turnout. "Anything we do to depress turnout, by not running as a unified party, for instance, could very well lead to serious consequences in November."
Well, why not? It worked before. And they might get lucky. Moderate Republicans may choose to stay home in November rather than vote for a Democrat, if the party of opposition fails to prove it is a viable alternative. But the Democratic strategy may not necessarily equate to many specifics, something that frustrates Republicans.
Blunt, however, wants to force Democrats to present an agenda. Contrasted with Democratic plans, "our ideas always look better," he says. "Their best day will be the day before they release their agenda. Suddenly [Republican] policies will look like the policies that would work best in the future."
The Democrats learned this piece of political jujitsu from the Republicans' torpedo of Hillary Clinton's health care plan. Republicans trashed it without presenting a viable alternative, and therefore, scuttled any possible compromise. The Democrats displayed the same tactic successfully during the debate on how to save Social Security, and although they have taken hits for not being the party of "ideas", the political fallout has been manageable. But the key to successfully implementing this strategy is a strong offense in order to keep the focus on your opponent's shortcomings, rather than your lack of specifics - a tactic at which the Republicans excel. Fortunately, five years of Bubble Boy's bungling has given the Democrats plenty to attack. It remains to be seen whether they have the stomach for it.


Bradley Bowen said...

I think we stand to make great gains in November. The Republicans, whether they want to or not, will not be able to distance themselves from President Bush. All one has to do is look at their voting record... the majority of the votes during the Bush administration have been party-line.

Donviti said...

very well said....with any luck the typical GOP voter will stay home and there will be a sea of change

texas toad said...

If a few of them stay home, and the independents break our way, wouldn't that be nice?