The 20% part:
Something I'd call the Twenty Percent Rule seems to exist in presidential polling. No matter what a president does, he gets to keep 20% approval. You could break into the Watergate hotel while having sex with an intern and keep them. The 20% is made up of the immovable, intractable base--those who fell for you early and hard and won't quit, who hate the media so much that if they hate you they'll love you, who are certain the incumbent is abused by history and its recent minor players, who stick because of this issue or that. And that 20%, by definition highly engaged in politics, always votes in the primaries.That sounds about right. And now the Bush administration problem:
Every candidate needs them. At the very least, no one wants to inspire their enmity.
The GOP challengers, no matter how they feel about Mr. Bush, can't knock him, because that would infuriate the president's 20% in Iowa, New Hampshire and elsewhere.
I suspect the Republican establishment knows all this, but I am not sure it concerns them overmuch. Why should it? If you are an absolute Bush partisan, you probably don't really want a Republican to follow him and potentially, in decisions if not in words, rebuke him. That would be the worst thing, not being followed by Hillary or Obama. If the latter happens, the outgoing administration can--and will--blame the loss on lax candidates, on a party that wasn't sufficiently inclusive, on congressional scandals, on immigration. "If only they'd followed our lead!"I may have been underestimating Peggy Noonan all these years. The real problem for the Republican Party is that 20% represents over 50% of the Republicans.
They'll be fine. The party may be defeated, the conservative coalition that raised them high sundered, but they'll be all right. Which is important, because more than the president's legacy is involved. Their very personal legacy is involved. No one wants to have worked for the biggest embarrassment in modern American political history.