I’ve been more optimistic than many about the Republicans’ prospects in 2008, but the current poll data at Rasmussen Reports are pretty grim: record numbers of people call themselves Democrats, and the donkeys have opened up a ten-point party ID advantage, compared to 6.9% when they made big gains in 2006.
Simultaneously, and by no means coincidentally, Rasmussen records President Bush’s approval rating at an all-time low of 34%.
I don’t find that surprising, given that in polite society is is mandatory to rip the President whenever possible. If you are constantly being attacked, and never defended, your approval rating is pretty sure to sink. We are seeing, I think, the fruition of President Bush’s “turn the other cheek” philosophy which we have been criticizing for around five years now. One can trace it back at least as far as the 16-words controversy. President Bush may be correct in believing that history will recognize his achievements, but history will also record that his administration’s inept efforts at self-defense resulted in a Democratic Congress that is poised to do severe damage to America’s economy and national security.
All of this suggests, I think, why triangulation is not a winning strategy for John McCain. If voters continue to defect from the Republican Party, the Republican candidate will be doomed in November no matter how strong his personal advantages over the Democratic nominee may be. Running against the Bush administration is an easy but inadequate strategy for a Republican nominee. Like it or not, McCain is going to have to defend key elements of the Bush administration’s record, most importantly on the economy, if he is to have a chance of winning in November.
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