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Fred Barnes: Snatching Victory . . . (Republicans can still salvage the midterm elections)
The Weekly Standard ^ | September 4, 2006 | Fred Barnes, for the Editors

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

TOPICS: Editorial; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: 2006; 2006election; bush43; election2006; fredbarnes; midterms
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To: okie01
Well, at least Fred made sense this time rather then arguing we're insignificant and that the people are really okay with Miers, amnesty, is his track record.

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.

21 posted on 08/26/2006 2:41:00 PM PDT by Soul Seeker (Kobach: Amnesty is going from an illegal to a legal position, without imposing the original penalty.)
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To: RWR8189


22 posted on 08/26/2006 2:48:05 PM PDT by Christian4Bush (The only way to bring a permanent peace is to eliminate the permanent threat. - FReeper Optimist)
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To: RWR8189

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.

23 posted on 08/26/2006 2:51:10 PM PDT by xzins (Retired Army Chaplain and proud of it! Supporting our troops means praying for them to WIN!)
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To: Shermy
It's the elephant in the room.

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.

24 posted on 08/26/2006 3:05:02 PM PDT by Bullish ( The pig headed monkeys of Islam can kiss my grits!)
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To: Common Tator

I can't believe it.

You wrote a whole post and didn't dis the President on border stuff.

Very interrresting.

25 posted on 08/26/2006 3:06:13 PM PDT by altura (Bushbot No. 1 - get in line.)
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To: Richard Kimball
winning over Democrats has never been the way Republicans get elected.

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.

26 posted on 08/26/2006 3:12:26 PM PDT by etlib (No creature without tentacles has ever developed true intelligence)
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To: Bullish
NAH!! 4 percent of Democrats support your position and 17 percent of Republicans.

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.

27 posted on 08/26/2006 3:35:50 PM PDT by Common Tator
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To: Common Tator

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.

28 posted on 08/26/2006 4:15:33 PM PDT by NapkinUser
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To: RWR8189
Barnes, the first of many to begin backtracking so he will be on the right side of a GOP IMPROVEMENT in both houses. This, I predict, is only the first of many by both Barnes and everyone else.

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.

29 posted on 08/26/2006 4:19:20 PM PDT by LS
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To: AFPhys
I think Fred's still behind the curve. The question is not whether the GOP will hold. Clearly they will. The question is whether they can GAIN---and I think they can, and will.

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.

30 posted on 08/26/2006 4:20:21 PM PDT by LS
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To: vetsvette

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.

31 posted on 08/26/2006 4:21:24 PM PDT by LS
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To: Common Tator

Uhm, I think most of Nixons victory in 72 was due to the fact that his opponent was George McGovren.

32 posted on 08/26/2006 4:25:41 PM PDT by RFT1
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To: xzins
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.

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.

33 posted on 08/26/2006 4:31:31 PM PDT by Jim Noble (President of the FR Rudy 2008 caucus, posting for 3 days from the City he saved.)
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To: RWR8189; fieldmarshaldj; AuH2ORepublican; Kuksool; zbigreddogz; JohnnyZ; ...

This is a reasonalby well-thought analysis.

34 posted on 08/26/2006 4:33:04 PM PDT by Clintonfatigued (illegal aliens commit crimes that Americans won't commit)
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To: Richard Kimball
However, winning over Democrats has never been the way Republicans get elected.

Ronald Reagan says 'hi.'

35 posted on 08/26/2006 4:34:31 PM PDT by HitmanLV ("If at first you don't succeed, keep on sucking until you do succeed." - Jerry 'Curly' Howard)
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To: HitmanLV
That's a very good point. Reagan, though, didn't bring Democrats over by adopting liberal policies. Reagan spoke for smaller government, reduced taxes, and support of small business. I always thought that Reagan's greatest strength was that he was a phenomenally successful politician who was never co-opted by the political class.

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.

36 posted on 08/26/2006 5:07:48 PM PDT by Richard Kimball (The most important thing is sincerity. Once you can fake that, everything else is easy.)
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To: marlon

"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?

37 posted on 08/26/2006 5:40:49 PM PDT by Saint Louis
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To: Richard Kimball

*Ronaldus Magnus Bump*

38 posted on 08/26/2006 5:48:19 PM PDT by Yardstick
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To: Shermy

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."

39 posted on 08/26/2006 5:56:11 PM PDT by churchillbuff
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To: xzins
Iran is the key. Iran's government must be changed. """

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?

40 posted on 08/26/2006 5:59:25 PM PDT by churchillbuff
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