View Full Version : Newsview: Bush's Problems Has GOP Worried

06-15-2005, 07:39 PM

Newsview: Bush's Problems Has GOP Worried

By RON FOURNIER, AP Political Writer
Wed Jun 15, 3:58 PM ET

WASHINGTON - As funny as this may sound,
President Bush misses
John Kerry. In the 2004 campaign, Bush sought to make the election a referendum on the Democratic senator's character and leadership skills rather than his own record as president. Now that he has nobody to run against, every day is a referendum on Bush. And it's taking a toll.

Bush's approval ratings are among the lowest of his presidency. Voters are growing increasingly uneasy over the war in
Iraq and the economy. His signature domestic issue,
Social Security reform, was received coolly by Congress and the public. Some Republicans are raising the prospect that Bush could cost them control of Congress.

What happened in seven months? One explanation is that he lost his punching bag — a political rival who, once pummeled, helped make Bush look good by comparison.

On Election Day, a majority of voters were concerned about the war in Iraq and the economy. But the president and his bare-knuckles political team — with some help from Kerry — convinced enough voters that the Democrat was an indecisive, flip-flopper who might do more harm than good. Voters might not agree with his policies, Bush said, but at least they knew where he stood.

Now, with nobody else to blame, Bush stands alone. He can't deflect voter concerns about the economy and other pressing domestic matters. With the death toll in Iraq pushed above 1,700, more than double the number of a year ago, it's no longer a choice between Bush and Kerry.

It's Bush's war. Period.

"There's just a general angst right now," said Rep. Tom Cole (news, bio, voting record), R-Okla. "He's paying for his Iraq policy more now than he was before the election. People know we have to win, but they're not very happy about it. So he has a lot of problems and, frankly, nobody to blame them on.

"And the Democrats are in the unique position of not having to propose anything," Cole said.

Bush, like other second-term presidents trying to delay lame-duck status, is up against his own record, in a sense, and that's seldom a welcome situation.

"In a vacuum, all the dissatisfaction is put on the White House," said GOP consultant Charles Black, who argued that Bush should steer more attention to upbeat economic numbers.

"When you're in a campaign, people have to make a choice. It's either A or B. Easy enough," said Ken Khachigian, who served as a strategist for President Reagan. "It gets more complicated after the campaign." Khachigian said Bush could seize the initiative by delivering a speech to Congress on Iraq.

Black and Khachigian said Bush may have an easier time as the 2006 congressional elections approach, because he can contrast his record with Democrats in Congress.

Bush seems to be warming to the idea of finding a new punching bag.

Addressing GOP donors on Tuesday night, the president said of Democratic lawmakers: "On issue after issue, they stand for nothing except obstruction, and this is not leadership. It is the philosophy of the stop sign, the agenda of the roadblock, and our country and our children deserve better."

Some Republicans say they fear that Bush and his advisers are ignoring the signs of voter discontent, moving too slowly to adjust their strategies. They also blame GOP congressional leaders for focusing on legislation that seems to help a select few while making no progress on issues that matter to many.

These Republicans include lawmakers and consultants who are allies of the White House. Most spoke only privately, fearing reprisal from the administration.

"They might not realize what a challenge we face here," said Joe Gaylord, a Republican consultant close to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. "The challenge is they're in campaign mode. Americans can be patient for a while, but when they see nothing going on, they get to wondering, 'What's going on here?'"

Khachigian said Bush is being worn down by stiff Democratic opposition and by his bullish agenda. "In a campaign, you're less likely to put up provocative ideas, you use much more global messaging and fewer specifics," he said. "What he's paying the price for now is being specific and provocative, especially on Social Security."

Cole compared Bush to President Truman.

"He was pretty farseeing. What you liked about Truman is what in the short term makes it politically challenging, and I'd say the same thing about Bush," Cole said. "He likes to make tough decisions."

Cole's analogy may not be comforting to Republicans. For all his tough stands and history's opinion, Truman left office with low poll ratings after the 1952 elections. And his Democrats lost control of Congress and the White House.


EDITOR'S NOTE — Ron Fournier has covered national politics for The Associated Press since 1992.

06-15-2005, 07:47 PM
That's no surprise...

06-15-2005, 07:53 PM
Those fuckers care more about getting re-elected than they care about Bush.

Rats on a sinking ship!