Michael Barone takes the measure of President Bush in a column that deserves attention: “A transformative president.” Here are two paragraphs that display a few of Barone’s trademark strengths as a political analyst:
Bush has already transformed the American electorate. On Election Day, John Kerry won 16 percent more votes than Al Gore did in 2000. George W. Bush won 23 percent more votes than he had in 2000. This is comparable to Franklin Roosevelt’s 22 percent gain in popular votes between 1932 and 1936. FDR created a New Deal majority that hadn’t existed before. Bush may have done something similar for his party.
Bush carried 31 states that elect 62 of the 100 senators. He carried approximately 250 congressional districts, to about 185 for Kerry (the final counts aren’t in). Bill Clinton was re-elected with 49 percent of the vote in times of apparent peace and apparent prosperity — the most favorable posture in which to run. George W. Bush was re-elected with 51 percent of the vote in times not of apparent peace and apparent prosperity. Clinton’s 49 percent in retrospect looks like a ceiling for his party. Bush’s 51 percent may be more in the nature of a floor.
I have no confidence that the Republican majority can hold together at the presidential level in 2008, but Barone provides reasonable ground for optimism.