January 3, 2006


For Bush, a Test in the Midterms (E. J. Dionne Jr., January 3, 2006, Washington Post)

The 2006 elections will determine whether Rove's brilliantly constructed machine has staying power or falls apart in the face of adversity. And there was adversity in abundance during 2005.

Bush and Rove's careful management of the politics of moral issues -- show the religious conservatives you're with them without alienating moderates -- collapsed during the Terri Schiavo controversy. The administration and its allies turned out to be well to the right of the national consensus on end-of-life issues and were widely perceived by moderates as pandering to the religious right.

The president's Social Security privatization proposal reminded many blue-collar and middle-class voters why they had once voted Democratic. Such voters did not trust the free market enough to agree to cuts in their benefits.

The increasing unpopularity of the war in Iraq has struck at the heart of Bush's appeal to the center. The controversy over how we got into Iraq has undermined the president's reputation for trustworthiness. The continuing violence alongside political instability in Iraq creates doubts about Bush's capacity as an effective leader. And much of the country listens to the president's promises with far more skepticism. The messy occupation without an end in sight flies in the face of the administration's happy talk before the war about a peaceful, prosperous Iraq that would be a model for the Middle East.

Note that each of these issues upsets the careful balance Rove had to achieve to get Bush to 50.8 percent in 2004. Three strikes and you're out: The social-issues right can't help Bush if its support drives away too many moderates. Pro-business economics can't help if it drives away many in the middle class. And the war on terrorism doesn't help if Bush is seen as managing it badly.

This will be the fourth election in six years where Democrats think that SS Reform is a negative for George Bush. We won in Iraq, establishing a multiethnic/multireligious democracy, and will be drawing down troops in '06, a policy Democrats have been forced to endorse. And not only does no one, sadly, remember who Terri Schiavo was, for the Democrats to try and remind them would require them to publicize that they're the party opposed to Life--which has been a losing position for them since '78. Most importantly, Democrats need a fourth strike in order to make any significabnt gains--they need the economy to tank. But Ben Bernanke has been strategically positioned to prevent that from happening.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 3, 2006 8:58 AM

Lucky for the GOP that the Democrats are still trying to win the 2000-2004 elections.

Posted by: mike at January 3, 2006 9:41 AM

It is interesting to see all of the "GOP is doomed in '06" predictions coming about. Dionne is expected but even people like Barone are joining in (saw a bit on Fox where he thought it was certainly possible the GOP loses the Senate in '06).

Posted by: AWW at January 3, 2006 9:41 AM

How the GOP does in Congress will depend a great deal on how the Abramoff scandal plays out (yes, some Democrats will also be snared, but they will be non-persons in the big media coverage of the story). More will depend on the economy, gas prices and the fall 2006 hurricane season.

Posted by: John at January 3, 2006 9:47 AM

Bill Quick made a prediction that AQ will assassinate a Euro head of state and try to get W.

Could make for a very interesting political season.

Posted by: Sandy P at January 3, 2006 9:57 AM

E.J. Dionne, "The Wrongest Man in Media"

Posted by: H.D. Miller at January 3, 2006 10:49 AM

It's doubtful there are any heads of state in Europe so beloved that anyone would care?

An AQ attack on Bush would be stupid in the extreme unless they'd like to see repeat of the 9/11 reaction.

Posted by: erp at January 3, 2006 11:22 AM


You can't make the American people care about Abrahamoff.

Posted by: oj at January 3, 2006 11:36 AM

Where's the Bartlett leak?

Abrhamoff is small potatoes. Now using the IRS......

Posted by: Sandy P at January 3, 2006 11:53 AM

Sandy, leaking the Barrett report would (to follow Chuch Schumer) be a violation of privacy of the Clintons (or whomever else the Dems are protecting). But releasing classified information when a Republican is President is heroic. Ha.

Abramoff is small potatoes now - he could be a big old slimy tuber in a few weeks, once the leaks about his elocutions (I hope that's the proper word) start.

It would help if Schumer's staffers, the ones who searched Michael Steele's credit report, were indicted.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 3, 2006 12:03 PM

"Most importantly, Democrats need a fourth strike in order to make any significabnt gains--they need the economy to tank. But Ben Bernanke has been strategically positioned to prevent that from happening."

OJ, can you elaborate on that comment? Are you argung (1) Greenspan would have the economy tank (and he made it tank in 2000 in the same way, what you refer to as economy-killing rate hikes in a deflationary era); and that (2) Bush took Greenspan out and replaced with Obi wan Bernanke in order to start reversing rate hikes? Is fed funds rate unnecessarily high right now (in so-called deflationary era)? And how do you demonstrate that? Thank you -

Posted by: frank at January 3, 2006 12:09 PM