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6/19/2007
GEORGE WHO?

As the race for the Republican presidential nomination heats up, it becomes more and more apparent that the GOP hopefuls are convinced that President George Bush suffers from some kind of highly contagious, debilitating disease. The way they seek to distance themselves from he and his policies would generally point to one of two things; either Bush has contracted some exotic malady or his poll numbers are so low that he has become the “Typhoid Larry” of electoral politics:

Recent polls have shown Bush’s popularity — which has long been in the tank with independents — suffering significant erosion even among GOP base voters, largely due to a backlash over the president’s stance on immigration.

The decline, according to some Republican strategists, has flashed a green light for lawmakers on Capitol Hill and presidential candidates to put distance between themselves and an unpopular president — a politically essential maneuver for the 2008 general election that remained risky as long as Bush retained the sympathies of Republican stalwarts.

Now that those sympathies have somewhat cooled, the effects are visible: Republican House members upset about immigration policy have spoken of Bush in disparaging terms. And presidential contenders like Rudy Giuliani are striking change-the-course themes in their rhetoric, even while continuing to back Bush over the Iraq war.

Much has changed since that first debate at the Reagan Library in California when each GOP candidate in his turn gave lip service to supporting the President. But lately, the Republican front runners especially have made it a point to make their differences with the President known to the voters. Even on Iraq, Senator Sam Brownback has broken with the Administration, calling for a partition of that bloody country into three separate federal entities; Shia, Sunni, and Kurd. And all the GOP frontrunners except John McCain have excoriated the President over his immigration proposal.

In fact, the debate over Bush’s “amnesty-that-really-isn’t-amnesty-because-I-say-so” bill is being blamed for this erosion of support. But I believe that to be much too simple an explanation. There are a large group of Republicans and GOP leaning voters who have had it up to here with Bush and have been waiting for a chance to stick it to this President for a variety of perceived failings including his out of control fiscal policies, his advocacy of big government programs like the Prescription Drug Bill, and even Iraq where some of the GOP faithful believe that Bush has been negligent in both defending our efforts there as well as prosecuting the war with sufficient competence and vigor.

Whatever the reason for this sudden movement away from Bush by the GOP field, all must take great care not to cut the cord completely. Bush still commands the support of more than 60% of the party and abandoning the President entirely carries the risk of sounding too much like a Democrat, much less giving offense to millions of conservatives who still view the President with affection and admiration. It remains to be seen whether or not Bush can even maintain that level of support given his nearly suicidal attacks on opponents of his pet amnesty project. No one likes to be called a bigot in so many words. And if he keeps that up, about the only supporters he’ll have will be the bedrock Republican faithful who would support anyone with an “R” after his name on the ballot.

But all of this slipping and sliding away from Bush by the GOP field will probably go for naught anyway. That’s because whoever emerges to claim the nomination will have to face the fact that just about every time a Democratic campaign commercial comes on TV next year, it will show the GOP nominee on one side of the screen and some unflattering picture of the President on the other. The Democrats are going to connect the Republican Presidential hopeful to Bush like superglue. And by the time they’re done, voters will think that Bush running for a third term.

So what’s the point of breaking with the President if the other party isn’t going to let voters forget George Bush? If the other candidate’s name is Clinton, the Democrats are going to have their own problems in breaking with the past. Looked upon with great affection by Democrats and left leaning independents, Bill Clinton is a lot less beloved in many parts of the electorate vital to the Democrat’s prospects for success. The idea of “The Bill and Hill Show” coming back to the White House does not sit well with about half of all independents. And Hillary’s negative rating - an astronomical 49% in the last Rassmussen poll - would seem to indicate that a GOP counter strategy of tying Hillary to her husband’s scandal plagued administration could end up making the entire issue of running away from Bush a wash.

The most marked retreat from support for the President among the frontrunners has been by Rudy Guiliani, who invoked the name of Reagan in an unflattering comparison to the current President:

But the willingness of leading Republicans to draw distinctions with Bush goes beyond immigration. “The thing that concerns me the most is that 74 percent that thinks the country is headed in the wrong direction,” Giuliani said last week at a Flag Day ceremony in Wilmington, Del., in a reference to recent polling. “What we’re lacking is strong, aggressive, bold leadership like we had with Ronald Reagan.” Later, he sought to downplay the apparent shot at the incumbent, underlining the awkward balance GOP candidates must strike in establishing independence from Bush without expressly repudiating him.

You can’t come much closer to a “repudiation” than that. Calling the ostensible leader of your party a weak and failed leader with 74% of the country believing we’re headed in the wrong direction cannot be construed in any fashion as a love note. By appealing to the memory of Saint Ronald, Guiliani softened the blow to those bedrock Republicans who like Bush but worship Reagan. And his backtracking later was hardly an apology for misspeaking. By referencing his statements to campaign strategy, Guiliani reinforces the belief that while he recognizes the balancing act he must perform, there is little doubt that he feels the need to get as far away from Bush as is practicable.

The closer we get to the primaries, the more we will probably see the GOP field edging away from the President. But there are going to be moments when the eventual nominee will be forced to stand with Bush, such as the Republican convention next summer. You can’t keep a sitting President from speaking no matter how unpopular he might be. But whoever ends up in the Republican’s winner’s circle, they may be wishing for a sudden power outage at the Xcel Center in St. Paul when it comes time for the President’s address if his poll numbers keep dropping the way they have these last few months.

By: Rick Moran at 7:48 am
6 Responses to “GEORGE WHO?”
  1. 1
    The Thunder Run Trackbacked With:
    9:26 am 

    Web Reconnaissance 06/19/2007…

    A short recon of whatÂ’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often….

  2. 2
    David M Said:
    9:29 am 

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 06/19/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  3. 3
    The Coffeespy » Tuesday Blogosphere Extravaganza! Pinged With:
    10:29 am 

    [...] Speaking of sincere support for conservative clients, that crazy Rick Moran brings us a sobering look at Giuliani distancing himself from, in the vernacular of the Nuthouse, “Typhoid Larry”: The most marked retreat from support for the President among the frontrunners has been by Rudy Guiliani, who invoked the name of Reagan in an unflattering comparison to the current President: [...]

  4. 4
    SlimGuy Said:
    10:51 am 

    Another point of support here, is the recent Novak column that GWB is gonna take his veto pen from single shot to full automatic over many upcoming pork , ah spending bills could have some with egg on their face if they get to far out front.

  5. 5
    Pajamas Media Trackbacked With:
    4:30 pm 

    George Who?…

    “As the race for the Republican presidential nomination heats up, it becomes more and more apparent that the GOP hopefuls are convinced that President George Bush suffers from some kind of highly contagious, debilitating disease. The way they seek to….

  6. 6
    Chet Brewer Said:
    7:57 am 

    George Bush has been political poison for 5 years now, slowly stripping away Republicans from the party. Between his credit card war, his incompetence and the incompetence of his appointees in prosecuting the war, his (and his appointees) trampling of the constitution in order to protect us, and his pandering to Christian right he has run every moderate republican out of the party. By the time he finishes bankrupting the nation both financially and morally he will be remembered in the same breath as Lyndon Johnson.

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