The emerging Republican game plan for 2006 is, at bottom, a tautology: If the Democrats retake Congress it will mean, well, that the Democrats retake Congress. (Cue lightning bolt and ominous clap of thunder.) Karl Rove and his minions have plumb run out of issues to campaign on. They can't run on the war. They can't run on the economy, where the positive numbers on growth are offset by the largely stagnant numbers on median incomes and the public's growing dread of outsourcing. Immigration may play in various congressional districts, but it's too dicey an issue to nationalize. Even social conservatives may be growing weary of outlawing gay marriage every other November. Nobody's buying the ownership society. Competence? Ethics? You kidding?That's right they simply don't have anything else to run on, they certainly can't run on their record. Bush's poll numbers keep falling, already much lower than I thought they would go, and they can't seem to do anything about it.
There's no concealing the Republican collapse. In a USA Today-Gallup poll released this week, the president's approval rating had deflated to a dismal 31 percent -- and to just 52 percent among conservatives. Other recent polls have shown that the public prefers shifting congressional control to the Democrats by margins as high as 17 percent.That's right, Bush's approval ratings are just slightly over 50% among conservatives. So what are the Republicans telling folks to try to hang on to the House and Senate.
And so, to stave off the specter of Democratic rule, Rove has decided that the only way to rally the Republican base is to invoke the specter of Democratic rule. Democrat John Conyers, who would become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has spoken of investigating the president for high crimes and misdemeanors. Henry Waxman and Ted Kennedy will get subpoena power if the Democrats win both houses. Unspecified horrors lurk behind every corner if the Democrats take control and hold hearings about the administration's relations with the oil and pharmaceutical industries. A sea of partisan vendetta, Republicans prophesy, stretches to the horizon if the Democrats are allowed to win.In other words if the Democrats take control the legislature may actually do it's job. Unfortunately for the Republicans even a lot of the conservative base think that might be a really good idea.