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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

GOP Leaders Worried About Iraq, ’06

The New York Times has a front-page story “Bad Iraq War News Worries Some in G.O.P. on ’06 Vote.” The article, by Adam Nagourney and David D. Kirkpatrick, features quotes by GOP leaders, which indicate a growing anxiety about the war, exit strategy and the political consequences. Some examples:

“There is just no enthusiasm for this war…Nobody is happy about it. It certainly is not going to help Republican candidates, I can tell you that much.” – Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. (R-TN)
“If Iraq is in the rearview mirror in the ’06 election, the Republicans will do fine. But if it’s still in the windshield, there are problems.” – Grover Norquist, white house senior advisor
“Any effort to explain Iraq as ‘We are on track and making progress’ is nonsense…The left has a constant drumbeat that this is Vietnam and a bottomless pit. The daily and weekly casualties leave people feeling that things aren’t going well.” – former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
“(Bush)turned the volume up on his megaphone about as high as it could go to try to tie the war in Iraq to the war on terrorism…I just don’t think it washes after all these years.” – Richard Viguerie, veteran GOP fund-raiser
“If your poll numbers are dropping over an issue, and this issue being the war, than obviously there is a message there – no question about it…If we are having this conversation a year from now the chances are extremely good that this will be unfavorable…” Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-NC)

Nagourney and Kirkpatrick also quote Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center on the political fallout from doubts about Bush’s Iraq policy:

If this continues to drag down Bush’s approval ratings, Republican candidates will be running with Bush as baggage, not as an asset…Should his numbers go much lower, he is going to be a problem for Republican candidates in 2006.

The legendary GOP echo chamber’s parroting of the “message of the day” seems to be fragmenting into a cacophony of doubt. Amid mounting U.S. casualties, the loss of increasing billions of taxpayer dollars and the growing prospect that Bush’s leadership will leave Iraq in a horrible mess, Republicans are starting to hear a chorus of concern from their more moderate constituents. Democratic candidates who offer a credibile alternative can win most of their votes.