We have heard and seen more than a few Republican leaders brighten up about their 2008 prospects by saying, "2006 was the worst of it, and 2008 will have to be better." They are dreaming. Not only can 2008 be as bad as 2006 for the GOP, it can be a good deal worse. Something we've learned from studying the 220 years of our Republic's elections: the political party that is found whistling past the graveyard usually ends up six feet under.And as a bonus we have a second quote of the day from Sabato:
Democrats keep looking for another John F. Kennedy and the Republicans continue to search for a second Ronald Reagan; neither party will ever find its man.The above is obviously in reference to Fred Thompson.
But Larry has a lot more than quote of the day fodder. There is this on the Republicans and the legacy of George W. Bush.
Naturally, everyone focuses on the candidates vying for the GOP nod, but the biggest elephant in the room is not them but Iraq. There will be many factors producing the 2008 November result, but none so critical as the state of the Iraq War. If the situation is anywhere near as bleak as it appears today, it is difficult to imagine any major Democrat losing the White House, even the weakest of the major Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton. (Antagonism towards her creates at least 46 percent of the vote for a Republican in a two-way race before the campaign begins in earnest--not a bad starting point for the GOP nominee.) Any Republican candidate--any Republican candidate--is going to be held accountable for Bush's policies, no matter how much the presidential hopeful tries to distance himself. (See Humphrey, Hubert Horatio, the election of 1968 and President Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam disaster.) That is the way our party system works, and arguably should work.That's right, George W. Bush is going to be the biggest boat anchor since Lyndon Johnson.
It's Iraq and Bush stupid
Dissension about the Iraq War has dominated this week's congressional headlines, but it is unlikely that major change will come this summer. Possibly the last real pre-election window for the Republicans to change the Iraq paradigm will come this autumn, after the report of General David Petraeus. The distinguished general will have no credibility if he paints a truly rosy picture, so logically he will either admit the failure of the "surge" or claim that it is a partial success with lights ablaze at the end of the tunnel. Here's betting it's the latter. After all, when has anyone in power come before the President and public and admitted his best efforts have been for naught--especially when it is crystal clear that General Petraeus's commander-in-chief wants to hear a positive spin? Interestingly, the GOP is far better off with "partial success" as the general's evaluation. That gives congressional Republicans and other senior GOPers the opportunity to give President Bush a political ultimatum if they dare. Either he announces a gradual but noticeable troop pull-out by year's end, or they will join Democrats in going beyond vague benchmarks to an actual, legislatively mandated, de-escalation schedule. We suspect that the recent Republican defections from the Bush-Iraq model (Senators Gordon Smith of Oregon, Susan Collins of Maine, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Dick Lugar of Indiana, George Voinovich of Ohio, John Warner of Virginia, and Pete Domenici of New Mexico) are the vanguard of a much larger, deeply concerned party contingent.The answer to that last question is yes although perhaps Sabato should have said Bush/Cheney. I suspect that even if he was threatened with impeachment the adolescent occupying the White House would not back down. I have said here before that Bush reminds me of my oldest son when he was 14 years old and he wouldn't have backed down. We all know that the Democrats can't make a change in Iraq without major Republican defections. That means at least 7 or 8 Republican senators walking the walk when it comes to opposing Bush. This may prove to be a lose - lose for them. Oregon's Senator Gordon Smith has been talking the talk if not walking the walk and the Republican base in Oregon is not happy.
Just as Senator George Aiken of Vermont advised Presidents Johnson and Nixon to pursue a strategy in Vietnam that came to be known as "declare victory and get out,"* so too can today's Republicans--the ones who, unlike Bush, are on the ballot in November 2008 and can lose--see a persuasive motive to push for a significant troop withdrawal by election time. Even 50,000 troops on the way home might well lower the voting saliency of Iraq for much of the public, who would believe the crisis is on its way to being resolved. Then other issues, more favorable to the GOP, could rise on the voters' agenda and give the sitting White House party a real shot at holding its fortress on Pennsylvania Avenue.
From the vantage point of summer 2007, little else holds promise for a troubled Republican party. Can congressional Republicans gather the kind of high-powered conservative delegation that visited Richard Nixon in early August 1974? Senator Barry Goldwater and his colleagues laid bare the facts before a sinking President, and however reluctantly, Nixon resigned. No one is seriously talking about a Bush resignation or impeachment, but the electoral stakes for Republicans are just as high. Could George W. Bush be more resolute--or stubborn--than Richard Nixon? In a few months, nervous Republicans may find out.