Skip to comments.Fred Barnes: Snatching Victory . . . (Republicans can still salvage the midterm elections)
Posted on 08/26/2006 1:38:40 PM PDT by RWR8189
You could almost hear cheers of joy coming from the White House. President Bush, it seems, is back, no longer hopelessly unpopular and embattled. You could see a renewed vigor in Bush's bracing defense last week of his Iraq policy and his warning of the geopolitical disaster that would follow a pullout (or "redeployment" as Democrats call it). And you could even see it in polls. In a polling slump since Hurricane Katrina struck a year ago, Bush's job approval was back in the 40s again--42 percent in the Gallup, Hotline, Rasmussen, and CNN surveys--and rising.
That wasn't all. The closely watched "generic ballot" suggested congressional Republicans may yet avert disaster on November 7. This measures whether voters want a Democrat or a Republican to represent them in Congress. It is a flawed yardstick and has never been reliably predictive. Still, after trailing by as many as 20 percentage points, Republicans were buoyed by reaching parity (at 40 percent) with Democrats in the Hotline poll and trailing by only 47 percent to 45 percent in Gallup. Even the most threatened Republican senator, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, down by double digits last month, seems to have cut his opponent's lead in half.
And, surprise of surprises, there's some good news from Iraq. The new offensive to cleanse Baghdad of insurgents and terrorists seems to be proving a success--one qualified by the fact that Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army of Shia jihadists remains hunkered down in the city. "Everybody has seen an improvement," declared Gen. George Casey, the American commander in Iraq. Even David Ignatius of the Washington Post was impressed, drawing an important lesson from the offensive. "With enough troops and aggressive tactics, American forces can bring order to even the meanest streets," he wrote.
Moreover, Bush and Republicans have an overriding issue to help them again: national security and the war on terror. This issue was the key to Republican victories in 2002 and 2004. With the foiling by the British of the plot to blow up airliners flying to America, the issue has moved front and center again--to the dismay of Democrats. They have tried to inoculate themselves by proposing a few defensive steps against terrorists. But Democrats remain highly vulnerable because of their efforts to weaken the more significant offensive tools against terrorists: NSA eavesdropping, the Patriot Act, the SWIFT bank surveillance program.
So bring on the midterm election, right? The answer is an emphatic no. As favorable as recent trends have been, they are not nearly enough to spare Republicans a nasty defeat, including the loss of the House and perhaps the Senate. The country is in a disagreeable mood and ready for a change. The Republican base is grumpy and apathetic. Bush may be America's choice to fight terrorism, but he falters on other issues. His boost in the polls doesn't mean he's now popular. He's merely less unpopular. And the August bounce may prove to be ephemeral, as earlier upticks have.
There's much to do. Standing pat and expecting terrorism to dominate the campaign would be foolhardy. Grim reminders of the threat on the fifth anniversary of September 11 won't make terror the paramount issue. Nor will presidential speeches or lacerating Republican TV ads. Neither Democrats nor the media will play along. It's Bush's actions, not his words, that will matter. Americans want to see him fighting for America's security. For Bush, good politics consists of following his instincts and doing the right thing.
The place to start is Iran. The diplomatic option is exhausted. No one expected the mere possibility of economic sanctions to cause Iran to halt its program to build nuclear weapons. And it hasn't. Now Bush must brook no dissent in pursuing stern sanctions. Russian and Chinese leaders have personally assured him they would back sanctions if Iran refused (as it has) to stop uranium enrichment. The president must hold them to their word, warning that their relations with America will be jeopardized if they balk. It's also time to make clear to Iran that the military option is indeed an option. In short, Bush should not wait for Iran's unlikely compliance, allowing the United States to look ineffectual, if not indeed a patsy. A senior administration official told the New York Times, in explaining the State Department's pathetic response to Iran's rebuff, "The game is about appearing to be reasonable." Bush needs to explain to his own subordinates that this is not a game and that the point is to prevent a nuclear Iran, not to "appear reasonable" to the Europeans.
As for Iraq, the initial success in pacifying Baghdad is instructive. American troops should not be spectators in Iraq. When they play an active, forceful role, as they are doing in Baghdad, in partnership with the Iraqi troops they've trained, good things happen, and sooner than they would otherwise, if ever. Forget the supposedly provocative "footprint" created by American soldiers. If some Iraqis see them as occupiers, so be it. Americans must be fully engaged to become victors. Bush, wisely or not, is unlikely to increase overall troop levels in Iraq. But withdrawing troops this year would be a strategic mistake. It wouldn't satisfy critics of the war anyway. And it wouldn't improve Republican prospects this fall. It would weaken the war effort.
A major problem for Bush and Republicans in the midterm election is turnout. Republicans have the most sophisticated turnout operation known to man. But it won't work if Republican voters, particularly conservatives, are angry at their leaders or indifferent. Bush has the support of only 74 percent of the Republicans in the CBS poll, 79 percent in Hotline. To stave off a Democratic triumph, a rise of 10 percentage points or so among Republicans is necessary.
The way to achieve it is hardly a secret. Besides national security, the issue that most energizes conservatives and Republicans is judges. Both the White House and congressional Republicans have let this issue fade while they quibble over whether the president has sent up enough nominees or Senate Republicans have acted expeditiously. Who cares? There are already enough nominees to the federal appeals courts alone to have confirmation fights for the rest of the year. Let's have them. It wouldn't be a bad idea, either, for the Republican House and Senate to agree on a death tax reduction and to send such a tax cut to the president, thereby revitalizing the tax issue, which distinguishes the two parties.
The message in the August bounce is not that Republicans are now sure of holding on to the House and Senate. They are not. The message, rather, is that they can save themselves. A lot depends on what Bush does. If he stands out as a fighter against terrorists and an uncompromising foe of a nuclear Iran, he will gain strength politically and will deserve to. But he and Republicans on Capitol Hill must act. Resting on nonexistent laurels will lead to catastrophe on November 7.
--Fred Barnes, for the Editors
I don't think Bush is running this year, no?
I see this as very accurate analysis.
And, while Fred is loathe to mention it, there is illegal immigration...
If the GOP politicians want to win over the GOP base, it's very simple:
1. Fight the war in Iraq. And elsewhere. And do it proudly.
2. Nominate original intent judges. Fight for them in Congress. Get them approved.
3. Enforce the laws concerning illegal immigration -- at the border and in the interior. And don't apologize for doing the right thing.
Rule #4: Shut your mouths and stop promoting amnesty!
Nothing keeps conservative voters in November like Republican elected officals supporting amnesty.
If the GOP loses Congress in November, the Bush/McCain/Kennedy amnesty plan will have had a major role.
Maybe he bounced back because we are being more aggressive in Iraq. The left seems to think all of the polls show that America is completely against the war when in fact there a good number of people who were not and are not against the war. They are tired of seeing us fight with one arm behind are backs and if anything want a much more aggressive war. In the polls these tired of the drip, drip, drip of casualties show up as lack of support but in fact nothing could be further from the truth. You want to see a republican resurgance TAKE THE GLOVES OFF!
"Rule #4: Shut your mouths and stop promoting amnesty!"
It won't happen. Unfortunately, "W" is a natural liberal who just happens to have a few conservative views -- tax policy and the proper role of the courts the most prominent of these views -- and, like almost all liberals, he can't imagine that any thoughtful person could disagree with him on anything.
I think the Republicans have several problems right now:
1. Border security. A porous border undercuts our position of being strong in stopping terrorism, and I believe much of the anger over Iraq is based on the fact that millions pour over the US borders illegally. The Rats won't do anything to stop it, but they will exploit it.
2. Spending. Republicans have jumped into the pork barrel as hard, or harder, than Rats. This will hurt them badly with fiscal conservatives.
3. Barnes is correct about the judiciary. The Pubbies have done pretty well, but we haven't communicated it. The recent ruling by the Carter appointee would have been a perfect time to bring this issue back to the front.
That being said, I've got the broken glass ready, because the Rats, if they get back in power, will do everything they can to ensure that:
1. There's never another honest election in this country.
2. Hannity, Limbaugh, most talk radio, and the internet are shut down.
3. The judiciary is composed of people who think Stalin wasn't harsh enough in dealing with conservatives.
It wouldn't be a bad idea, either, for the Republican House and Senate to secure the borders of this country. Just a thought.
It's an accurate reaction to the Democrat's inaccurate strategy which they've been advertising.
The races will be decided on local issues and the immigration bill.
Bush can screw it up if he starts pushing his America-busting radical immigration plans aka "comprehensive." Bilbray, a few others have challenged Bush publicly, I think the shyness has returned. Too bad because most people want a break from Bush.
Will Bush do it? Absolutely, and Rove/bolten will push it. A lot of post-2008 consultation job money running on getting the Senate bill through now. It must have seemed so close, the LSM and Democrats so easily stampeded by Rove's demonization of conservatives.
Republican control could be lost if Bush steps in before the election on immigration and the Repubs. don't denounce him.
"No mention of the illegal alien invasion?"
It's the elephant in the room. MSM chatter so far dictated by Dem press releases focusing on Iraq to juice moonbat donations. Dems can't touch immigration, Dean and others were lead like lemmings to support the Bush/Senate plan.
You're right and Fred and his boss, Bill Kristol, are part of the "open borders" lobby that just don't get it. Barnes has been rightly described by Ramesh Ponnuru, of National Review magazine, as a "big government conservative" -- in other words, a Kerry-lite.
Much of the conservative base has also been disgusted with Bush's out-of-control spending and the creation of the biggest entitlement since LBJ.
That's why if the Republicans want to retain Congress they MUST distance themselves from Bush's domestic policies.
"I don't think Bush is running this year, no?"
No, just his party. Woe unto us if he loses the congress too. Reid, Pelosi, Soros and Al Franken and the people who worship them will finish off the heart and soul of this nation.
Good grief. As usual brain dead Fred is clueless. The base is already motivated to halt ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. Bush and the republican leadership only need to board the train. Wake up Fred.
Not only did he win he won a bigger percentage of the vote than Reagan did in 1984. Nixon won 60.7 percent of the votes. He came with in 1/10 of one percent of wining the biggest victory of the 20th century. He nearly broke FDR's record.
How could Nixon's 39 percent job approval turn into a 60.7 percent win?
It is pretty simple to figure out. It is the same situation today. The media and Fred Barnes things the lack of support for Bush is about Iraq. And that is true. But only a small percentage want us to get out of Iraq. The latest polls show only 22 percent of likely voters want to pull out of IRAQ.
Only 39 percent think Bush is doing a good job. But another 22 percent want him to kick ass and take names. They want him to fight harder. These voters are not going to vote for a Cut and Run Democrat. It is apparent in the inability of John Murtha to get people to campaign for him. In fact no one wants Murtha to campaign FOR them. Democrats want him to go away.
Why do the media polls under poll Republicans? Because they assume those hard core Republicans are not going to vote for Democrats. And since they don't support President Bush, they are not going to vote.
Yet, when the choice comes to stay the course or cut and run... stay the course wins. The voters who want to nuke em and then come home will be scared to death that Democrats might take over and surrender.
The turnout will be big and the media will be telling us that voters changed their minds in the last 24 hours.
This is a good year to be a Republican... It is just that the Washington Pundits don't know it... yet.
But given the same choice, I'd take President Bush over Gore, Kerry, or anyone else the rats put up there hands down. I can't even think of a "conservative" ready to run for prez from either party.
Seems in an abstract way he's acknowledging if Republicans want to win they are going to have to do better then produce an angry and indifferent base even if doesn't delve too deeply as to why we're in this mood lately, a mood that pretty much describes my mood these days when I concentrate on politics. Which is why I've been taking more time away these days, rather then live 24/7 in that mood.
Republicans have the most sophisticated turnout operation known to man. But it won't work if Republican voters, particularly conservatives, are angry at their leaders or indifferent.
Nice Fred has finally got that.
he's right that we should just fight and win in Iraq, be damned hearts and minds. Not that I don't share that agenda, still, but I'm at a point where I don't believe it can happen jointly. So, first break the agents of Iran and Syria, lay down the law, THEN we can go back to hearts and minds.
He's right that we should dump the diplomatic route for Iran we've tried this term. It's a failure.
He's right we sould return to judges because to this day it STILL rankles so many have been mistreated.
And, since I know the administration and the Mccain's of the world are unlikely to do right by the border at this time, at least resolve to be quiet. Stop attacking the House for standing for the borders. meanwhile the other candidates that have their heads on straight can campaign for border security without being undermined by the agents of amnesty.
Excellent article by Barnes and right on the money.
Iran is the key. Iran's government must be changed. Do that, and the tension in Iraq will go away. And we need not occupy Iran. We simply need to displace their government, destroy their nuclear capacity the old fashioned way (brick by brick), and then depart. Leave with the message that we'll be back again is they aggravate us again.
If Iran were not so involved in the Iraqi intrique, and if Iran were not for decades now the world's leading exporter of terrorism, then it might be different. But both of the above are true.
Take out Iran and ALL of the other pieces will fall in place.
More accurately, it's the big pile of steaming, stinking elephant DUNG in the room. The more they ignore it, the bigger the problem gets. All other problems America faces pale in comparison.
I can't believe it.
You wrote a whole post and didn't dis the President on border stuff.
Absolutely true. This may be the major Republican problem. Too many of them are following the polls, reading the NYT and WashPost, and then trying to "out Dem" the Dems.
It is not a deciding factor for much of anyone except the Pat Buchanan brigade. That amounted to about the same posting space here on FR in 2000 that you use today. It amounted to 1/3 of one percent on election day.
Take off those rose-colored glasses. Illegal immigration is a serious problem, it motivates the republican base, and you can bet a majority of Americans support a fence on the border and stoping illegal immigration.
KEY: earlier this week Carville and other Dem spinmeisters started to float the "vote fraud" in six states---an absolute sure sign they don't think they will win and need to have an issue when they lose.
See the post above for the comment Rush had from Carville about "vote fraud" in six states. They are already starting to prepare for the inevitable.
That was NOT my experience when I spent an hour with Bush in the Oval Office last month. Quite the contrary, he seeks out opinions and advice, and listened to everything.
Uhm, I think most of Nixons victory in 72 was due to the fact that his opponent was George McGovren.
This is the same error that has led to the status quo in Iraq.
Yes, there are some Westernized Persians who, if they were in power would be better for us.
But Amanutjob was popularly elected, his nuclearization policy is very popular, and the majority of young males of military age are fanatics, with more on the way in the 12-16 age range.
Shia Iran = Shinto Japan.
If we aren't prepared for conquest and occupation, we should pursue a policy of appeasement.
This is a reasonalby well-thought analysis.
Ronald Reagan says 'hi.'
The point I was making was that Republicans will not be successful by adopting Democrat policies, hoping to get the Left to love them. Reagan appealed to the best of our instincts. He was never loved by the Republican establishment, and was, of course, hated by the Left and the media. He was only loved by the average voter.
BTW, dare you to read this excerpt from his farewwell address without misting up.
I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still.
And how stand the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that; after two hundred years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.
We've done our part. And as I walk off into the city streets, a final word to the men and women of the Reagan revolution, the men and women across America who for eight years did the work that brought America back. My friends: We did it. We weren't just marking time. We made a difference. We made the city stronger. We made the city freer, and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad, not bad at all.
And so, good-bye, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
"Take the gloves off"
I agree it is time to vigorously fight:
1. Cut n run Democrats.
2. Defeatist Democrats.
3. Defeatist media.
4. Pro illegal immigration Democrats.
5. Big spenders in Congress on BOTH sides.
6. Corruption in the UN and weakness in our "allies".
7. Nuclear ambitions of dictatorships in N Korea and Iran.
Why are they afraid to agressively confront the real issues of our time?
*Ronaldus Magnus Bump*
Why does Barnes think that "stern sanctions" against Iran is going to make people vote Republican? Sanctions may or may not be good policy, but either way I don't see the lack of sanctions as the reason Republicans are in trouble. People are upset about gas prices (wait - wouldn't sanction INCREASE gas prices?) and ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. I just skimmed this article, but I don't think I saw anything about immigration in it. Does Barnes not think it's an issue? If he doesn't, he's not worth listening to as a "political expert."
Maybe so, but I don't see Iran as the key to getting more people to vote Republican. Show me a poll that says the reason the GOP's numbers are low is because we haven't slapped sanctions on Iran. I honestly think Iran is low on most voters' priority list - if you have a poll that says otherwise, I'd like to see it. The polls I've seen say that people are upset by 1) Iraq war; and 2) gasoline prices. Among the base, ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION is big. But Barnes doesn't even mention it, does he?
"If we aren't prepared for conquest and occupation, we should pursue a policy of appeasement."
I vote conquest, skipping quickly through normal weapon, to big deadly demoralizaing ones.
The fewer remaining to pacify and occupy, the better.
Set the example we missed with Iraq.
Call it payback for 1979.
Because it aint easy and we have become fat lazy and comfortable. Osama, camel humper that he is, knows more about us than we'd like to admit. Who has time for war, corruption at the UN and illegals poring over our borders when we have more important things to worry about. For instance did you know Tom Cruise lost his studio? Jonbenet's perv killer is landing in the US? Michael Jackson is going broke? etc, etc, etc.
I'm not sure that I believe the Democrats are certain they won't win, but I do agree they are trying to cover their bases by floating out excuses.
Most observers are aware mid-terms are about base turnout. When motivated...the GOP has a bigger base. 2004 proved that. Democrats can't be certain the GOP's base won't turn out. Nor are they entirely comfortable pridicting the behavior of their own base right now after CT. Hence the uncertainty.
You may well be right about Barnes trying to cover for excessive doom in past. But, then, serves every insider like himself right for jumping on the conventional wisdom of the Beltway to guage the future. Better if they focused on the actual thinking of the people in the country, rather then that of the paid propagandists.
If I recall, your assessment has been consistently that they'd pick up a few seats? Mine has been fairly close, even in my outraged state. That we were looking at "status quo" with possibility for a few changes either negative or positive but nothing dramatically different. With Republicans largely the ones that can control their own fate here. Even at this late date.
Homeland security, liberal judicial tyranny, Rat extremism (and immigration, for Republican candidates generally, but not for Bush). Barnes is right about taking aggressive positions on Iraq and Iran. But only as part of the mix.
I mean to stability in Iraq and to the WOT.
There is no need to occupy. There is only a need to settle matters with the current regime, and then to depart. Eventually, a regime that values longevity will come to power.
Bush is really unpopular. The problem for the democrats is that if bush did run again, he would squash almost any democrat they could put up because they have zero ideas about anything.
But Rush read a piece---one of those "inside" things by Carville---and it was TELLING. They were basically saying that the election would be "stolen" in six states if they didn't watch out. Why are they even talking about a "stolen" election if they think they will win?
I'm not getting this- don't these pols and "newspeople" EVER talk to real people? The demonRATS are all pumped over poll results and conservatives are wringing their hands. Are they so sure that those who would NEVER vote for a leftist are just so angry at the reps that we would EVER vote for a dem?
Most of us are pretty angry with the nonsense- immigration, the direction of the war, education, etc- but that does NOT mean we would THEN shoot ourselves in the foot.
They truly need to poke their noses outside the Beltway every once in a while...
I don't believe it for one minute. Lamberti is a good candidate.