Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Tuesday | July 22, 2003

GOP starts worrying about Bush's numbers

After the Nov 2002 elections, the Louisiana Senate race remained undecided, with a runoff election set to determine whether Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu would keep her seat.

The GOP sent its heavy hitters to the state, including Bush, as well as millions of dollars. They dubbed the effort "Operation Icing on the Cake".

Well, despite being at the height of his popularity, running against a relative liberal in conservative Louisiana, Bush was unable to get his candidate over the 50 percent mark. He was beatable, even back then.

In the subsequent months since that election, so many have blabbered about Bush's invincibility. I never bought it. He was always beatable, it just required the right message, the right tactics, and the ability to stand steadfast for basic Democratic ideals.

Of course, everything in Bush's world has turned cold, from the economy, to the deficit, to Iraq. People no longer trust him. His teflon has worn, and the GOoPers are left to threatening legal action against stations that run DNC ads, exposing CIA agents for political points, and engaging in character assasination against anyone who criticizes the administration. If Bush had any teflon left, such defensiveness would be unecessary.

But the clearest sign everything has changed is the handwringing within his own party.

For the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, rank-and-file Republicans say they are worried about President Bush's re-election chances based on the feeble economy, the rising death toll in Iraq and questions about his credibility.

"Of course it alarms me to see his poll figures below the safe margins," said Ruth Griffin, co-chair of Bush's 2000 campaign steering committee in New Hampshire. "If he isn't concerned, and we strong believers in the Bush administration aren't concerned, we must have blinders on."

We are seeing a gradual shift in memes. "Bush can't lose" is on its way out. "Bush may be vulnerable" is creeping in.

Of course Rove has to be troubled. Much of his tactics depend on building an "aura of invincibility" (hence "Operation Icing on the Cake"). The idea being that

  1. people want to be associated with a winner, and will jump on whichever bandwagon has to most steam, or

  2. opponents will be so demoralized by the inevitability of Bush's supremacy that they'll stay home on election day.
But we've got a whole new ballgame on the hand. With a weakened president suffering from waning popularity, facing an increasingly aggressive field of nine Democratic hopefulls. (That's a lot of criticism pointed in Bush's direction.)

Republicans aren't stupid. They know their man is not a sure thing. It's just nice to see them admit it.

Posted July 22, 2003 03:31 PM


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