Sunday, March 19, 2006

Republicans Hope to Win in 2006 By Repeating 2004

George Bush ran for reelection by avoiding discussion of his own dismal record and demonizing John Kerry. Republicans find it much easier to campaign against straw men than to campaign on their record or the issues. They realize that if the 2006 elections are a referendum on their own record they will lose.Fred Barnes writes in 2006 they will try to return to the strategy which worked in 2004:

For 2006, the Republican National Committee, the White House, and most Senate and House Republicans are on board with the choice strategy. In fact, some members of Congress are already repeating a phrase first used by Bush in meetings with congressional allies. It’s an assertion that Democrats would “raise your taxes and raise the white flag” in Iraq

Rather than trying to pick up support from the middle, they will concentrate on increasing polarization and winning with heavy turn out from their fringe groups (which recently have been wavering):

House Republicans, for their part, intend to seek votes on measures such as the Bush-backed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a bill allowing more public expression of religion, another requiring parental consent for women under 18 to get an abortion, legislation to bar all federal courts except the Supreme Court from ruling on the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance, a bill to outlaw human cloning, and another that would require doctors to consider fetal pain before performing an abortion.

One clue as to whether Republicans are really all on board with this strategy is whether they continue to distance themselves from Bush or rally around him:

Dave Sackett of the Tarrance Group said, in a memo to Mehlman, that distancing oneself from the president is a “flawed strategy” and would not protect a Republican candidate “from the generic backlash against the administration or the congressional leadership.” Rather, it would turn the campaign into “a national referendum on President Bush and the policies of the administration and the congressional leadership”–just what Republicans fear in 2006. Jan van Lohuizen of Voter/Consumer Research said a campaign that becomes a referendum on Bush could also chill Republican voter turnout. “Anything we do to depress turnout, by not running as a unified party, for instance, could very well lead to serious consequences in November.”

After laying out the plan, Barnes is not sure as to whether it will be successful:

Mehlman’s confidence notwithstanding, will Republican efforts to keep the election debate from focusing on Bush really work? The media undoubtedly won’t play along. Some Republicans are bound to trash Bush, figuring that it will give them the best chance of winning. Worse, if Bush falters badly, a referendum on him may be unavoidable. Still, is there a better strategy for Republicans in what looks like an unfriendly year for them? If there is, I haven’t heard of it.

Can this strategy based upon avoiding discussion of their own record work? For another view of the flaws in continuing to win based upon the politics of deceit I will turn to another Republican (who would not be very comfortable in the party today):

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”
–Abraham Lincoln


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