washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men….

A front-page article in The Washington Post by Dan Balz details the ideas the GOP has for turning 2004 into a realigning election for their side. Perhaps “details” is too strong a term for mostly the article alludes vaguely to the Republicans’ plans for picking off from Democratic-leaning constituencies–Latinos, “security moms”, white unionists, etc.–while keeping their base mobilized. The devil’s in the details on this one and the article doesn’t do a lot of heavy lifting in explaining with any precision how exactly this is going to be done. In fact, there are good reasons for thinking a lot of the GOP’s plans –like, for example, their plans to reach Latinos (see the last several posts of Donkey Rising) or security moms–may encounter quite a bit of difficulty.
Less controversial is the GOP’s apparent intent of “maximizing the advantages of the war on terrorism”. That’s been quite successful and they certainly have been willing to stop at nothing to press that advantage. But is it starting to unravel? Another front-page article in The Washington Post reveals that the President’s claim of definite Iraq-Al Qaeda links in October was contradicted by important intelligence reports available at the time. And another article reports that Hans Blix, the former chief UN weapons inspector is now inclined to believe that that Iraq may have had little more than “debris” from their old secret weapons programs at the time the US invaded.
Will the accumulation of doubt combine with domestic discontent to finally drag down Bush’s personal popularity–the other seemingly solid part of the GOP strategy described by Balz? (Ralph Reed is quoted in the article as saying the parties are basically at parity, but the Republicans have George W. Bush.) Maybe it already is. According to a just released poll from Ipsos-Reid, more Americans think the country is on the wrong track, rather than going in the right direction, for the first time since before the Iraq war. And Bush’s job approval rating has slipped below 60 percent, again for the first time since before the Iraq war. Moreover, Bush’s hard re-elect number (those who would definitely vote for him) is down to just 40 percent, with 32 percent saying they would definitely vote for someone else (26 percent say they would consider voting for someone else). Finally, the poll gives the Democrats a 7 point advantage in the generic Congressional ballot. We’ll have to wait and see if these trends are confirmed by other polls, but it suggests that rather than forging realignment in the next election, the GOP may be doing well simply to squeak out a win.