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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

GOP ‘Big Tent’ Collapsing?

With Republicans controlling the three branches of government and recently winning key votes in congress on the bankruptcy bill and ANWR oil exploration, it would seem there is not a lot for Democrats to be optimistic about. But some previously dim pricks of light are starting to flicker more brightly at the end of the tunnel. As yesterday’s post below indicates, recent polls show President Bush’s approval numbers tanking significantly and the public is clearly unimpressed with the Administration’s ‘leadership’ on issues, including Social Security, economic policy and GOP meddling in the Terry Schiavo tragedy. In addition, it appears that some serious rifts are appearing among the GOP rank and file. Adam Nagourney provides an interesting wrap-up of the Republicans’ internal troubles in his Sunday New York Times article “Squabbles Under the Big Tent”:

Conservative commentators and blogs are even warning that Republican divisions could turn into turmoil once President Bush begins his fade from power. “The American right is splintering,” the sometimes-conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan wrote in a column for The Sunday Times of London headlined, “Bush’s Triumph Conceals the Great Conservative Crack-Up.”

Nagourney also provides a typology of GOP subgroups, which Democratic strategists may find of use as a guide for peeling off potential Republican voters:

Gone are the days when the Republican Party could easily (if simplistically) be divided into social conservatives versus fiscal conservatives. There are libertarian Republicans, Christian conservative Republicans, moderate Republicans, Wall Street Republicans, balanced-budget Republicans, tax-cutting Republicans, cut-the-size-of-government Republicans, neoconservative Republicans supporting global intervention and isolationist Republicans who would like to stay at home.

Dems can also find some encouragement about GOP splintering in “Earthly Evangelist,” Deborah Solomon’s New York Times Magazine interview with Richard Cizik, head of the 30 million member National Association of Evangelists. Asked about his group’s influence on the future of GOP environmental policy, Cizik responded,

Look, the big corporate interests have an undue say in party policy. And into this reality come the evangelical Christians. And when confronted with making a choice, this administration will compromise. Because about 40 percent of the Republican Party is represented by evangelicals. They wouldn’t want the two major constituencies of the Republican Party at war with each other

Widening rifts in the GOP (see also March 30 post below) may well provide a margin of victory for Democrats in next year’s congressional elections and beyond, especially for Democratic candidates who make a clear and measured pitch for the votes of Republicans moderates and supporters of environmental reforms.