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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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1 posted on 08/26/2006 1:38:42 PM PDT by RWR8189
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To: RWR8189

I don't think Bush is running this year, no?

2 posted on 08/26/2006 1:44:07 PM PDT by Shermy
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To: Shermy

I see this as very accurate analysis.

3 posted on 08/26/2006 1:48:39 PM PDT by AFPhys ((.Praying for President Bush, our troops, their families, and all my American neighbors..))
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To: RWR8189
The way to achieve it is hardly a secret. Besides national security, the issue that most energizes conservatives and Republicans is judges.

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.

4 posted on 08/26/2006 1:49:57 PM PDT by okie01 (The Mainstream Media: IGNORANCE ON PARADE)
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To: okie01

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.

5 posted on 08/26/2006 1:55:02 PM PDT by nj26 (Border Security=Homeland Security... Put Our Military on the Border! (Proud2BNRA))
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To: okie01

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!

6 posted on 08/26/2006 1:55:57 PM PDT by marlon
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To: nj26

"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.

7 posted on 08/26/2006 1:58:51 PM PDT by vetsvette (Bring Him Back)
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To: Shermy
Bush isn't running, but he's the Republican leader, and his popularity, or lack of, will have a significant impact on Republican chances. Much of the grousing about Bush by the media doesn't have a basis in fact, it's just attacking Bush because he's a Republican, he's breathing, and he's in the White House. However, winning over Democrats has never been the way Republicans get elected. They do that by appealing to their base and independents that share their values.

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.

8 posted on 08/26/2006 1:59:21 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: RWR8189
No mention of the illegal alien invasion? Bush and Republicans should take real action to secure our borders and deport all criminal illegals.

I guess they're afraid of losing the Hispanic voting bloc. But this is something voters from both parties would whole heartedly support.
9 posted on 08/26/2006 2:00:41 PM PDT by Bullish ( The pig headed monkeys of Islam can kiss my grits!)
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It wouldn't be a bad idea, either, for the Republican House and Senate to secure the borders of this country. Just a thought.

10 posted on 08/26/2006 2:01:43 PM PDT by JustaDumbBlonde
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To: AFPhys

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.

11 posted on 08/26/2006 2:02:32 PM PDT by Shermy
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To: AFPhys
I think clamping down on the border and passing legislation making spending earmarks transparent would do wonders for the Repubs.

I doubt either will happen.
12 posted on 08/26/2006 2:03:10 PM PDT by Blackirish (I'm George Allen and I apologize.)
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To: Bullish

"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.

13 posted on 08/26/2006 2:05:03 PM PDT by Shermy
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To: okie01

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.

14 posted on 08/26/2006 2:18:44 PM PDT by T.L.Sink
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To: Shermy

"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.

15 posted on 08/26/2006 2:21:04 PM PDT by billhilly
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To: RWR8189
The way to achieve it (motivate conservative base) is hardly a secret. Besides national security, the issue that most energizes conservatives and Republicans is judges.

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.

16 posted on 08/26/2006 2:25:16 PM PDT by Maynerd (New Middle East policy - less troops more nukes)
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To: AFPhys
This reminds me of the pundits in 1972. The polls said Nixon's approval was in the mid to high 30s. How could Nixon win?

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.

17 posted on 08/26/2006 2:28:26 PM PDT by Common Tator
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To: RWR8189

18 posted on 08/26/2006 2:29:29 PM PDT by Gritty (The sewer that is Washington DC is now looking like a hot tub to the GOP - Richard Viguerie)
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To: Badray; smokeyb; jim_g_goldwing


19 posted on 08/26/2006 2:31:09 PM PDT by Conservative Goddess (Politiae legibus, non leges politiis, adaptandae)
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To: vetsvette

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.

20 posted on 08/26/2006 2:34:40 PM PDT by Chi-townChief
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