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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bah! Who Needs Independents and Young People?

That appears to be the attitude of Bush’s political team, given that the president has now announced his support for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. This move has been widely viewed as an effort to satisfy the GOP’s conservative base and that judgement seems about right.
Why would the Bushies do this? Because they’re very worried about fragmentation of the GOP base, as questions pile up about Bush’s free-spending ways and deviations from the conservative agenda (e.g., the immigration bill). They can ill afford such fragmentation in a situation where the Democratic base is consolidating, swing voters are moving away from the GOP and Bush is running behind in trial heats against the probable Democratic challenger. Sure, the GOP spinmeisters talk a good game about how none of the polls really matter at this point; and of course the Democrats are running ahead what with all their free publicity at this point in the campaign cycle; and so on. But they know better.
In fact, it’s quite unusual for an incumbent president to be running behind the challenger at this point in the cycle. According to a recent Gallup analysis, every incumbent president back to Harry Truman was leading their eventual opponent (and all other possible opponents) at this point in an election year with the lone exception of Gerald Ford in 1976. And of course, he lost.
So they’re right to be worried. And shoring up your base by endorsing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage is a natural reaction. But is it smart politics?
Probably not. In fact, it’s exactly the sort of thing the Bush strategists wanted to avoid in an election year–having to cater to the conservative base and risk alienating swing voters in the process.
And alienate they will. The latest Newsweek poll shows that, while the public is split about evenly, a strong majority of the most volatile age group, those 18-29, supports either full marriage rights for gays or civil unions (58 percent to 36 percent opposition). Similarly, while a healthy majority (56 percent) of the public supports either full marriage rights for gays (23 percent) or leaving decisions on the issue to the states (33 percent) , rather than a constitutional amendment (39 percent), views among young people are positively lop-sided: 66 percent for full marriage rights or state decisions, compared to 30 percent for a constitutional amendment.
And then there are independent voters, the quintessential swing group. In just-released ABC News/Washington Post data, a question on a constitutional amendment vs. state decisions elicits an even split among the public as a whole, but a 58 percent to 35 percent majority against an amendment among independents. Similarly, an Annenberg Public Policy Center poll question about support or opposition to a constitutional amendment against gay marriage shows an overall 48 percent to 41 percent majority against an amendment, but a larger 52 percent to 37 percent majority against among independents.
So, this attempt to satisfy their base is likely to come at a price among other voters they need to win the November election. Of course, they will immediately seek to rebuild Bush’s image as a tolerant, compassionate conservative, as they have done before, through speeches, gestures and other political tools they have at their disposal. But every move like this makes that rebuilding task a little bit harder. And the November election draws ever closer.

32 comments on “Bah! Who Needs Independents and Young People?

  1. Libertarian on

    I agree that they are seen as the new ethnic Catholic. One problem. The old ethnic Catholics weren’t the Reagan Democrats. Yes, the so-called Reagan Democrats did have some of those ethnics in them, but they were suburban voters who came over to the GOP on economic grounds, not moral ones. The old blue-collar ethnic Catholics did not go for Reagan.
    Last problem Rove refuses to understand. The Catholics around him are those that are obsessed with political alliances with the evangelicals, so that there would be one Christian political agenda and religious unity against naughty behavior, as well as promote a heartless economic agenda. Calvinism in a word.
    Richardson would be a better choice for VP. This is to show how important the Hispanics are to the party. Also, the evangelicals tend to be very anti-Catholic. The more the GOP becomes dominated by such, the more they lose even the real Reagan Dems in the North, let alone lose the chance to win ethic Catholics, who do not take to a hostile agenda being rammed down their throat. The incompatibility of the two groups he won’t admit.

  2. PaulC on

    I don’t know if this thread is still alive at all, but in my mind the Federal Gay Marriage Amendment is aimed at Hispanic voters. I think Rove & Co. have decided that Hispanic voters are the new ethnic Catholics, the next generation Reagan Democrats. The Hispanic population is very Catholica and highly macho. Gay marriage could play very well with them. And, they could be the key to Bush holding on to Arizona, Nevada and Florida. If Bush makes enough inroads, he can put New Mexico and, heaven forbid, California into play. I think all of Bush’s moves have to be viewed through this lens. We had better start to strike back now, before this becomes a phenominom that the press discovers and perperuates. For the first time, it makes me wonder if Bill Richardson wouldn’t be a better running mate than John Edwards.

  3. Libertarian on

    Dave, they should. He is up in 2006.
    In 1994, he won, not on the issues but due to the fact that Wofford was pushing for a single payer health system. This was not a liability until Hillary Clinton took this up. Satanorum won against tax raises and Hillary care to win the suburbs now concerned about their pocket books once again. In 1992, that meant removing Bush Sr., and in 1994, Harris Wofford.
    In 2000, the rural industrial areas had a depressed party, due to always being hurt by redistricting and lack of support for Klink by the national Dems. Satanorum won the suburbs by appearing to them as more moderate. He had campaigned for Christine Todd Whitmann in 1997, during which he made himself look good in the Philly suburbs.
    It took the 2002 and 2003 elections in Pa. to revitalize the party in some of the old rural industrial areas, as well as bring growth to the smaller urban and larger metropolitan ones. This is not the South. The party is supporting a slate of candidates representing each area last year, as well as this. They are succeeding in making each vital region feel themselves a necessary part of the team. This up here results in support for Dems further up the ticket.
    Satanorum thinks that by supporting Specter, people will forget his fascist way, and view him a moderate. He himself does not believe it will work when he said that the GOP should forget about the southeast, and that their majority there was only on paper. Hence, his attempts to depress the party in other areas in order to lower the level of voting in vital Democratic territory. In 2003, the talk was of voter suppression in the southwest. Not trying to gain votes there, but how to stop some from voting.
    Satanorum knows that their time in power here is quickly coming to an end. They are trying hard to stay in power by any means, just as the Dems in Georgia were trying to squeeze out a few more years in 2001. Both are signs of a dying regime.
    We can unseat him. We just need to strongly back whoever that might be. Since Rendell will be on the top of the ticket, I would suggest someone from the western part of the state. We should start looking now so that we can have him out campaigning the moment this year’s election is over to give him the recognition to win in ’06. Give the rural industrial areas one of their own, and they will vote. Remember Rendell will be fighting to take the suburbs from Satanorum. He will.
    What the hell does Satanorum mean, anyway? Latin for of Demons, from Hell? Well, I think next time is our chance to ship that bastard back to hell! Remember Klink got 47%, even with the problems them. Things have improved. The bastard, I believe, is history in’06.

  4. Dave on

    I’m so surprised that a state like Pennsylvania could elect a man like Rick Santorum.
    He’s almost as bad as John Ashcroft.
    Our party should make a priority of unseating him the next time he’s up for election.

  5. ck on

    Coming out in favor of the Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment makes perfect sense, from the Karl Rove point of view. While the issue may not score points with swing voters, that is not the point. Bush has lost control of the public narrative, and endorsing FMA is a classic Rovian tactic — when you are under attack, change the subject.
    Remember the lost power point memo, from the Spring of 2002? That was a Rove gambit, to change the subject from the “Bush Knew About The 9/11 Attacks” narrative. And it worked.
    The fact that we are debating FMA proves that the tactic is working again. Remember — for the Mayberry Machiavellis, power is the objective — not policy. The only way they can hold onto power is by controlling the narrative. Once they lose control of the narrative, the game is over.

  6. Libertarian on

    I am proud of our former Governor. Keep in mind, he was not a conservative! Secondly, many of those in Pa. who follow his principles happen also to be of the same religion as Casey. They also believe in social and economic justice, support unions and workers’ rights, and disagree with Bush on 95% of the issues.
    They keep on talking about the 4 million evangelicals who did not vote in 2000. They need to keep their conservative Christian base together. This is not a conspiracy, it is merely appealing to his base. Notice what his base is! It is not central and eastern European Catholics that are scattered throughout our old industrial areas! He is not doing this for them!
    We are talking about an agenda wedded to big business, so when free trade helps corporations, they support it, but when it comes to allowing prescription drugs from Canada, free trade is out. Let the CEOs lobby in Canada to lift price restrictions there!
    I take it you support the ideals of Casey. Well, the religious right needs your vote only to ram their agenda down your throat. When the GOP actually allows Casey Democrats to be themselves in the GOP, rather than force them to become something they are not to be Reps, then I might be able to accept that this is not just the religious right agenda.
    The redistricting in 2001 is a perfect example. In a Republican magazine, Crisis, there was an article entitled, “Why Blue-collar Catholics won’t vote Republican”. The solution was to carve up their communities to dilute their influence in the Dem Party, in order to secularize the Dem. leadership, so that they would either have to vote for the GOP or not vote at all. The GOP refuses to put up people who reflect their values, but seeks to force them to vote for an agenda they do not support.
    Since only a Pennslyvanian would call himself a Casey Democrat, I suppose you know that the GOP called people up in the southwest to say that Susan Gantman was against abortion, yet she admitted she was pro-choice and was endorsed by Planned Parenthood! I can allow for many things. Insulting my intelligence is not one of them, nor is deliberately destroying the political influence of my own people in order to ram an alien agenda down their throat.
    The GOP cares about two groups, big business and the evangelicals. You are not included. Sorry. Neither am I.

  7. Libertarian on

    Angry Bear,
    Things are worse (economically) in many areas of Pa. Good news came in the form of the judicial elections in 2003. There was a decline in GOP support in the suburbs from the ones in 2001. The rural industrial areas of the Southwest went more Dem than since ’96, as did certain areas in the Northwest, and the Northeast.
    In my own area, I’ve seen three large factories close recently, laying off several thousand. Some places always vote Dem., such as Pittsburgh, Philly, and such small cities as Scranton and Erie. The rural blue-collar industrial areas, socially conservative and economically liberal, are the ones that Bush has lost and will cost him any chance of winning Pa.
    The problem for him, and to our benefit, is that these blue-collar areas are not like those in Alabama. Their economics are far more liberal and social conservatism means saying your against abortion. Family values type talk, especially when things are bad there, doesn’t work too well. John Ashcroft is not popular in these regions either.
    The nature of the GOP coalition in Pa. is also there to help. The south central region is their strongest, from eastern Somerset to Lancaster County, formerly conservative Dem in the Dixiecrat mode and now staunchly Rep, is highly evangelical. It is there that opposition to gambling and alcohol have held up various bills to allowing race track casinos and expanding the venues selling alcohol.
    No jobs and fundamentalism rammed down their throats. That’s a recipe for continued expansion in Pa for us!

  8. Maxcat on

    Actually I think this issue could end up costing the publicans many votes and here’s why.
    Talk about a flip flop, just take a look at what Bush said when asked this in 2000. Now that’s a real flip flop.
    The only reason the publicans have raised this to it’s current height is because they are hurting on almost every other single issue, so this effort by them is very transparent.
    Marriage is a Church sanctioned ceremony. The legality of marriage is a legal issue. What they are trying to do is impose their religious right personal views on all of America by hiding this agenda in an arguement of the law. The Constitution is not for imposing one’s personal religous views on others. Americans will see through this charade and in the end this will cost the publicans votes. There are entirely to many other much more serious issues for our country to be working on for this issue to have any bad effect on the Democrat’s nominee.
    This is just a smoke and mirrors show and the media is going to share in the shame by promoting this continuously. The last election the media did not serve the people well and then again in the run up to the war, want proof just look what we have now. We must stand up and insist that this doen’t happen again. This is not a national issue it is a state issue.

  9. Peter on

    Actually this WAS a politically calculated move. The Southern Baptist convention said last year that they would make same-sex marriage the #1 political issue. This was before Massachusetts even made their ruling. Ed Gillepsie, head of the RNC, said that they would make this a huge issue even if Mass. ruled against marriages (he said “I don’t see a difference between civil unions and marriage”). The push against marriage started last June when the Supreme Court threw out sodomy laws. Months before Massachusetts.
    I know that many people in America do not approve of same-sex marriage. Please realize that many gays are not “pushing” this. We are not a bloc. We all disagree and have different opinions and lives. I think the behavior of Mayor Newsom is deplorable and horribly timed. I think the timing of Massachusetts couldn’t have been worse. Many of us are horrified at these events and know how devastating the backlash is. Many of us are simply trying to live our lives in peace. Please don’t use this as a reason to hate the gay community or to turn against the Democrats. No one is trying to force anything on you. Most likely, this will end in same-sex marriages still being illegal everywhere, and gays will be disliked and feared by the public, as they have been for a long, long time.
    As for Kerry, he shouldn’t have spoken out for the amendment (for political reasons), but I don’t see how this can be used as flip-flopping, since there is obviously a huge difference between a state amendment and a federal amendment.
    The bottom line is that this issue is going to cost the Dems millions of votes. All we can do is try to stop the bleeding.

  10. Maxcat on

    That’s my point Brian. Let them squaq about the gay issue as we stay focused on the real issues. The media has a big investment in seeing Bush win so it is going to take a very controlled focused campaign to keep Americans thinking about what’s important.
    This is still a democratic society and we ultimately have control. Don’t let them play you America.

  11. Brian Y on

    I’ll chime in, even if I don’t exactly disagree with anyone. The gay marriage issue has to be placed in its proper context. Every time it comes up, the Democratic nominee should say “I wish we had the luxury of focusing on this issue, but we don’t”. Then proceed to rip Bush on everything ELSE.
    The problem with this issue is, it doesn’t really matter what the polls show. As long as gay marriage is the number one issue, nothing else gets covered. When was the last time there was any serious coverage of Iraq? Or how about the global warming report from the Pentagon? Or the failure to extend the 9/11 commission? AS far as the media’s concerned, nothing matters right now but gay marriage and The Passion.
    In other words, exactly what Bush would want to make 2004 decided on culture issues. I’m going to have to agree with Casey here. Sure, many people are bothered by the idea of a constitutional amendment. But they are also bothered by the image of two guys kissing, and if that’s the main issue in November, Bush wins.

  12. Casey Democrat on

    Yeah, it must be a total politically calculated move. I mean it’s not like the vast majority of the country is abhorrent of what is happening in Massachusetts and San Francisco. It’s not like us Democrats who dont happen to live on the BosWash axis, could possibly ever disagree with the Massachusetts Supreme Court and the mayor of San Francisco. And of course its not like an even greater majority of us are ever so slightly annoyed and the high handed and un-democratic way this is being done. Nope it has to be a right wing conspiracy to satisy the so called ‘religious right”

  13. Maxcat on

    Very good point LL.
    This election is shaping up to be a landslide for our party. We will not only win back the White House we will win several other seats in the Senate and the House.
    Let the publicans scream their message of hate while we just go about putting out our message for America’s future while legitimately reminding Americans of what Mr. Bush has done to us and our country.
    To take a line from one that they worshipped, this is what our attitude should be towards Bush and his failed policies and messages of hate:
    “There he goes again”.

  14. LL58 on

    Maxcat, I agree that Democrats should not spend too much time defending themselves against the anti-gay Jihad. Every time the Republicans raise it, the response should be, “Why are you wasting valuable time talking about this, instead of the issues the people care about?” If the Democrats don’t take the bait, the Republicans will have to get ever louder and more shrill about gay marriage. And because most swing voters are uncomfortable even hearing about the issue, they will come to blame the Republicans for making them do so.

  15. Maxcat on

    Democrats out of touch?
    If anyone is out of touch it’s the publicans.
    Focusing on the gay issue is out of touch.
    Americans are free.
    Focusing on Bushies leadership is out of touch.
    Look what he’s done in three years.
    Focusing on Kerry’s character is out of touch.
    Bush is a liar.
    Take the higher road, stick to the important issues, don’t lower us to their low standards.
    The truth will set you free and in the White House is where a Democrat President will be.

  16. rawls on

    In the comments so far there appears to be a tone of: “If its Kerry then X…or…If its Edwards then Y. I recall this discussion came up a coulpe of months ago and I just don’t see what has changed since then. I recall the conclusions then were that this is a potentially touchy issue for Dems and disasterous if, A) the economy and jobs improve and B) if the War in Iraq is going well.
    Absent these 2 developments it seems to me our strategy should be a simple task of pointing out what the repubs stategy is: “My opponent wants to talk about limiting the rights of citizens. I want to talk about jobs, the economy, why we are fighting an elective war that appears to benifit the VPs Chronies…”
    Upper Left, your idea of trying to elevate the dialogue to one of idealism and the historical struggle of equality in our country is a nobel idea. Unfortunately, it would further the debate and give the repubs more ammo. A statement like this would highlight what they are trying to say about the dems. They would say, “see we are right, they want to make homosexuality legal and destroy the sanctity of marraige in the process.”
    I believe it would be wiser to take a much more low key approach and say something like this:
    “The democratic party has been the party of inclussion for the past 50 years. This has caused us some problems in the past but it is a tradition we stand by. We believe that diversity is key to a strong America. Our opponents believe it is best to limit the rights of individuals. They have shown this not only by proposing this constitutional amendment but in other ways as well, The Patriot Act for example, or cutting taxes of the wealthiest while placing heavy economic burdens on working families.”
    Okay, i’m kinda winging it here. My point is that we can beat this issue (and beat the repubs over the head with it) by not making it just about Gay Rights. The key is to make it about equality and most of all tie this issue with contemporary problems of our day – not to some lofty idealism. Ideology is a serious problem for the repubs right now, lets not make our problem also.

  17. rt on

    franklyo is dead on on the questions Bush needs to be pressed for answers on. Far better if that pushback comes from the media than from us, though.
    Implied in a number of these posts is that an analysis of how this issue plays which relies solely on surveys of voters’ views on the merits omits two important factors:
    priority of issues
    The Republicans will want to turn this election into a referendum on gay marriage. They will seek to eliminate all nuance from that debate and persuade voters that priority #1 of our side is to bring gay marriage to the US. We have to be firm and forthright in addressing the issue–and we have to bring the discussion quickly back to our main message.
    We don’t get voters we should get on economic issues because our opponents have had success caricaturing us as eager to launch a disrespectful, derisive assault on their values and sensibilities. We are portrayed as the sneering, condescending elitists out of touch with mainstream middle American values. In the old movie “Terms of Endearment” the whole audience laughs at the “Well, then you must be from New York” line. In the way we make our case we need to avoid playing into that line of attack.

  18. Upper left on

    You posted while I was writing my post below. I think you make an excellent point. It is the flip-side of the same coin I was talking about below. Bush has to run on personality, leadership, and wedge-issues. If his opponent is Kerry, the race will be very nasty. Kerry will be attacked as stiff and unlikeable; wishy-washy and opportunistic; and as an culturally out-of-touch north-eastern, ultra-liberal.
    If his opponent is Edwards, it is a very different race: the likability issue is off the table; the patrician, North-eastern issue is also off the table; and the flip-flop issue will be less of a problem. Certainly Bush would come after Edwards for his trial laywer back-ground. The big issue would be leadership and lack of foriegn policy gravitas. I don’t think any of us really knows how it would play out. On balance, I prefer Edwards, but I doubt if my preferences matter much. The media seems content to see Kerry nominated. Edwards is getting very little coverage, and Kerry is getting very little scrutiny.

  19. Upper left on

    I think it is a mistake to underestimate the intelligence of the opposition. These people have very different values and priorities than we do, but they are not stupid. If you look back to Goldwater days, the Repubs have been much more disciplined in their politics than Dems. One thing you can say about these folks is they like to win. Another observation you can make is that they are willing to do or say anything to win. So we need to think like they do in order to understand their motives.
    My guess is that they have concluded that they can’t win on any of the mainstream domestic issues. They are going to cross their fingers on the economy and hope that they can sell the argument that they are not responsible for the problems and that things are slowly getting better. But they know that they are in trouble on jobs, healthcare, social security and education. The enormous deficit makes it difficult for them to turn to their ol’ standby: lower taxes. Deregulation doesn’t work because it ties into corporate cronism.
    That leaves them with the “war President/leadership thing.” The problem here is that Bush’s great triumphs in Afganistan and Iraq can’t bear too much scrutiny. Iraq is a mess and will likely remain a mess. The admin will try to hold things together with duct tape through November. If I were Osama, I would take a vacation between now and November. I have a feeling that Bush is going to be scouring the mountains for the next six months.
    All of this leads to my point: 1) Bush badly needs to change the subject; 2) the Repubs are going to have to have to fan the flames of the culture wars harder than we have ever seen them fanned before; 3) Bush and Co. are going to go after Kerry on character. They are going to do everything possible to make this election a personality contest between Bush and Kerry. Personality, leadership, and wedge issues are all they have got. This is why I am so concerned about Kerry’s vulnerability to the flip-flop, political-opportunist charge. We are going to see this accusation ad-naseum.
    Regarding the gay marriage issue specifically, I think Frankly0 has a very good point. I would like to see the Dems place this issue in the context of our country’s long, historic stuggle for equality. We should point out, at every opportunity, that for the first time since slavery and the men’s only vote, we would be enshrining discrimination toward any group in our constitution. In fact, the very reason that the Repubs want an amendment is that they know that their opposition to gay marriage is in conflict with the 14th amendment. The party of Lincoln, the great emancipator, is now seeking an amendment to weaken our country’s greatest triumph. The Dems should portray themselves as the defenders of Madison and his warnings about the need to “protect rights of the minority against the tyranny of the majority.” If we frame the issue as weakening this country’s commitment to its most fundamental values, we win. If we let the Repubs frame the issue as the protection of our most fundamental social institution, we loose.

  20. Andrew on

    It’s hard not to avoid the issue when your state is scheduled to allow gay marriages in two months and your state legislature is scheduled to debate a constitutional ammendment on the subject in two weeks. There are questions that Kerry can’t dodge, as much as he’d clearly like to.

  21. Laura on

    I don’t think the Democratic candidate,whoever he maybe, should allow the Republicans to determine the issues. the gay marriage issue shouldn’t be so promenent. I wish Democrats would just say” I support equal rights and I don’t want to mess with the Constitution” and then launch ito a protracted discussion of global warming, or the deficet, or corruption in the Bush Adminisstration. Edwards did this in one of the early debates. We’re more likely to get Independent, young, and anti-Bush votes if we decide what the issues are and present the issues of our chosing clearly , concisely, and repetitively. Kerry is being too reactive.

  22. rt on

    In response to Homsar’s points I’ve seen surprisingly little speculation on how nominating Kerry vs nominating Edwards could affect the kind of campaign it would be, which in turn could have a big affect on the tone if we win.
    If Kerry does get the nomination I think it is obvious even now it will be a scorched earth campaign, with the Republicans attacking viciously from the outset, Kerry belting back, and the Republicans hoping this suppresses independent turnout.
    If Edwards wins the nomination I think it’s obvious he will try to run a relentlessly positive campaign. The Republicans might try to slam him hard early but I think they’d have to be more concerned about a backlash–the “killing Bambi” phenomenon that some bloggers are referring to.
    None of us can know how Edwards would respond when they do come after him harder. But he has shown he is skilled at making the attacker look small and is able to get in digs without coming off as nasty.
    If you believe Edwards and his people are not especially sharp (I disagree) or think they just don’t have enough experience in political combat (a very plausible view) then of course you’ll think he’s not up to “outquicking” our opponents in this kind of campaign.
    If Kerry gets the nomination and wins the presidency the campaign will have been so nasty that it will be partisan trench warfare from the day he’s sworn in, just as it would have been if Gore had prevailed.
    If Edwards were to win the White House they might, being the Republican party, try the same tactics from the outset. But if Edwards has been consistently positive he might be able to hold high enough favorables to have a chance to actually get some things done. The corporations he’s been fighting in court have spent a lot of money trying to dig up personal dirt on him and don’t seem to have come up with much. Maybe there really aren’t Monicas and whatnot other skeletons in his closet.
    If you believe that very high levels of partisanship and nastiness are fundamentally the results of disagreements and divisions within the country then you’ll think we’re doomed to food fights in Washington no matter who wins, and how, for as far as the eye can see.
    If you think that most Americans really want it to be much less partisan and negative, and think that it is possible, depending on who the nominee is, to have a campaign which keeps the post-election levels of bitterness to much lower levels, then it might make a big difference who the nominee is.
    Even if it’s the case that (as I believe) either of them could win.
    The Republicans know that ensuring that politics is not just ugly, but hideously so, only aids their contention that you can’t trust the government to get anything done or do anything right. Our best way to prevail may be to put forth leaders who are appealing enough to make that strategy appear to be what it is. You know, like a more polished, term 2 Clinton without the personal baggage.
    Maybe we’re just not going to get someone like that for a very long time. I admit I’m more hopeful than the facts so far warrant to believe that Edwards has it in him to maybe, just maybe, be someone like that–a Democratic President who could get things done and overcome Republican attempts to ensure by hook and crook that no Democratic President ever retains a high favorability rating with the public.
    The relevance of post-election ability–or potential– to be effective is obvious to all of us as citizens. But I trust that its relevance to the prospects for an emerging Democratic majority is also obvious. We’re more likely to be able to get there and stay there if we are able to deliver more when we get the chance.
    Sorry for the long post but this Kerry/Edwards thing could be decided by next Tuesday and I’m interested to know the reactions of others.

  23. Andrew on

    The problem with this issue is that there is really very little middle-ground. Bush is solidifying his right-wing base, and risks alienating the middle by appearing to be mean-spirited.
    In contrast, John Kerry is trying to take a non-committal “let the states decide” approach. The problem is that because he is from Massachusetts he has been forced to take on the ammendment to the Mass Constitution. And Kerry has come down in favor of the ammendment banning same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.
    Sure, he’s trying to take a middle-of-the-road option so he can appear more reasonable than Bush. Makes sense? Maybe not. By coming out in favor of the Mass ammendment he is seriously pissing off the progressive wing of the Democrat Party. Sure, people will still vote for him. But they won’t donate, they won’t be enthusiastic about his candidacy. They’ll see him as the ultimated triangulated compromise candidate. Bill Clinton without the charisma.
    Kerry’s position also makes it impossible for him to push Bush on the issue. How can Kerry paint Bush as intolerant when Kerry is voting for exactly the same thing in his jurisdiction (Mass) that Bush wants for his jurisdiction (USA).
    The final analysis? Bush firms up his base, drives a wedge between Kerry and the Democratic base, and doesn’t have to pay much of a price among centrists because Kerry can’t take a strong line against him.
    On balance, it looks like this could turn out very well for Bush, which makes me very sad.

  24. Alan on

    > Why would the Bushies do this?
    Oh, come on.
    They HAVE to keep people from talking about the 9/11 commission.
    They HAVE to keep people from talking about the Plame investigation.
    They HAVE to keep people from talking about the federal deficit/debt.
    They HAVE to keep people from talking about the crumbling educational system.
    They HAVE to keep people from talking about Halliburton.
    They HAVE to keep people from talking about the environment.
    They HAVE to keep people from talking about ______.
    When you think about it, what better move could they have made? Can you think of a topic FAVORABLE to them that could have pushed as much off the front page as this have?

  25. dmh on

    This seems nuts to me but I wonder if the Repubs have concluded they have to run a campaign designed to increase votes from their base–jack up the wingnut/Christian righ vote–and suppress the independent votes through a nasty, dirty campaign that will discourage them from voting for any candidate. The independents are running strongly against Bush right now and perhaps they have concluded they have lost this vote so the best strategy may be one to lower turnout among this cohort and increase turnout among their base. Seems crazy but what other explanation is there for what appears to be a politically crazy move.

  26. jeffs on

    The wingnuts won’t vote Dem, but they might sit on their hands.
    Calling for the FMA does a couple of things: It’s a distraction, more effective than calling for a Mars program, and it’s housekeeping, shoring up his base.
    Repubs must be extremely frustrated. They’re thinking of things to raise their poll numbers.

  27. frankly0 on

    One thing that struck me about how Bush phrased his support of the amendment was what he DID NOT say. He said that was against gay marriage, and that the issue demanded the “clarity” afforded only by a Constitutional amendment. He said that he would leave it to states to settle on other kinds of legal accommodations that might be made for gay couples. But what he did NOT say was whether he, personally, was in favor of civil unions in any form, or in favor of state legislation supporting them.
    It’s pretty obvious why he does NOT want to talk about his own views on civil unions: he’s between the rock of looking like a bigot, and the hard place of antagonizing his base. But his tightrope walk here is inherently unstable: if he is asked the simple questions, do you, personally, favor civil unions, and do you, personally, support legislation by states to underpin civil unions, he cannot fail to answer.
    Having already elevated the issue of gay marriage and civil unions to something worthy of a constitutional amendment, he can have NO good reason to avoid the questions — indeed his base will see avoiding the questions as totally unacceptable by itself.
    Kerry himself would be the best person to force the question on Bush. Kerry has been quite clear: he’s in favor of civil unions, and against gay marriage. He will have every right to demand that Bush answer the question, particularly since Bush himself has said the issue calls for clarity.
    Kerry should pose the question as a challenge to Bush, and just kick back and watch the fireworks.

  28. Homsar on

    While prospects look good for Bush’s defeat now, I’m concerned this analysis is overlooking just how vulnerable John Kerry is to attack. I can see a huge mudslinging duel, resulting in possibly the lowest presidential turnout to date amongst a cynical public.
    As an Ohio resident, I have a gut feeling John Edwards would be the strongest candidate by far.

  29. Angry Bear on

    BC–I’ve seen a number floated around that something like 3-5 million self-professed evangelist or fundamentalist Christians didn’t vote in 2000. A number like that must underlie the calculations behind that decision.
    Still, it seems to me that well over half that number must be in solidly Republican States (i.e., Texas and the Southeast minus Florida). But that observations seems so obvious that I don’t see how Rove et al. could have missed it.
    PA, FL, and OH seem like the biggest battlegrounds and I just don’t see this as an deciding issue for voters in those states (I’ve blogged on the substantial job losses in OH; I suspect that PA, steel tariffs notwithstanding, is not much better.)
    This will probably get a few more Christians to vote, but it takes two new Christian voters just to offset a swing voter who changes from Republican to Democratic.

  30. Scott on

    Here’s something I wonder about. The question on the left side of the blogosphere seems to be one about whether the eventual Dem nominee can afford to just come right out and endorse, at the very least, the states’ right to make their own decisions about gay marriage, and to do so without at the same time insisitng that he personally (Kerry or Edwards–take your pick) is *against* extending full marriage rights to gays. Maybe most Americans *aren’t* in favor of extending the right to marry to gays. But do most Americans actually care more about that than, say, disappearing jobs, a catasrophic foreign policy, and a President whose credibility on both those fronts is all but spent? To put the question another way, could the Dem nominee afford to just do the right thing here–not because most Americans would agree with him–but because most Americans have other priorities?

  31. reignman on

    well, there are SOME Republicans that are THINKING about voting for Democrats (ex. John Edwards), so they’re probably getting consolodation of their base out of the way before they go on to independents.

  32. bcinaz on

    Im curious, if Bush doesn’t call for the FMA and pisses off his conservative base, who WOULD they vote for instead? Do Karl, Eddie and Dick fear a conservative revolt at the convention. Frankly, I don’t see any advantage to Bush in backing this amendment; it’s not as if any of the right wingnuts are going to vote for the Democratic nominee.


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