Monday, May 22, 2006


Voters Don't Just Oppose Bush; they Oppose His Whole Party

OK, here's more evidence that GOP strategists are delusional if they think that the only reason their numbers are in the toilet on most issues is because the Iraq fiasco is coloring the electorate's opinions across the board.

As I wrote here, today's Washington Post piece about the GOP's midterm elections strategy offers up the absurd Republican spin that Iraq is to blame for President Bush's woes on other fronts. As the piece says, "Bush remains a firm believer in the `Iraq first' strategy. The war has overshadowed everything else and, in the White House's view, to a large extent has poisoned the public against other messages."

Obviously Iraq is important. But is there any empirical evidence to support the claim that Iraq is "to a large extent" to blame for the public's views of Republican failure on other fronts? Not that I've seen. Bush aides cite the President's spike in numbers last year after the Iraqi elections, but that's nowhere near good enough, because a great deal of hugely damaging non-Iraq stuff has happened since, including the ludicrous GOP gas-prices quick-fix fiasco and the latest immigration battles.

Indeed, one very recent poll suggests the opposite claim is true: This Fox News opinion poll. Twenty nine percent said that "gas prices" are the topic that comes up most often in conversation with friends and neighbors; only thirteen percent cited Iraq. Improvements in Iraq, a long shot to begin with, probably would improve Bush's numbers, but too much stuff has happened on other fronts, and any modest improvements in Iraq simply won't be enough to persuade the electorate to forgive the administration its other disastrous blunders.

What's more, the poll also seems to rebut the idea -- floated in the Post by GOP strategists -- that Republicans will automatically fare much better if folks don't see the midterms as a referendum on Bush and instead see it as Republicans vs. Dems. Indeed, the poll says that already, fully 39 percent of voters are already not going to make Bush a factor in their vote. The fact that nearly half the voters are already taking Bush out of the equation, coupled with the fact that polls are already showing double digit leads for Dems in straight comparisons between them and the GOP, suggests that the damage is flowing from the electorate's view of the GOP, as much as from their view of Bush.

In sum, voters aren't opposing just Bush, but his whole party; and they're not doing it just because of Iraq, but because of the party's ideas and performance on multiple fronts. So the whole notion of any "Iraq first" strategy is just plain bogus, if indeed GOP strategists really believe in it in the first place.

Ah, yes. But if you are a GOP strategist trying to manage the #'s you will try and talking point limit the image down to the Iraq war. The last thing a strategist wants is to manage 40 issues. He wants sound bites so he doesn't see the GOP fractioning even more. The more issues stay on the table the less chance Bush has to gather the reins. Great blog by the way.
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