The Post's Long-Hoped-For GOP Scuffle

An article in today’s Washington Post speculates that President Bush’s recent drop in approval has endangering GOP chances in next year’s mid-term elections.

Until now, many conservatives have scoffed at the significance of approval numbers which don’t reflect the opinions of likely voters or take into account a voter’s intensity.  Winning elections is the ultimate test of approval, they argue.

But recent grumblings among fiscal conservatives (many of whom have voiced their displeasure here at Human Events Online) implies trouble with the base – something no politician can afford.  As the maxim goes: “You’ve got to dance with the one that brung ya.”  And some fiscal conservatives are acting like they’ve been left alone by the punch bowl for too long. 

Still, GOP woes are overstated.  The media love to engage in “divide and conquer,” pitting Republican against Republican, which is one reason this “controversy” was deemed worthy of being on today’s front page of the Post.   The media would love nothing more than to see Republican candidates start attacking the President, back home in their districts.  Could it be the media are engaging in wishful thinking?

On the other side of the aisle, the Dems are hoping ’06 is their year.  The best time to challenge an incumbent is when you can ride the wave of zietgeist – the spirit of the times.  The last time this happened was 1994, when Republicans swept Congress.  Still, when it comes to Congressional elections, incumbents win re-election 99 percent of the time, so it’s hard to dramatically change the makeup of Congress in one election cycle.  It’s way too early for anyone to predict that. 

The pundits who predict a long-term backlash against the GOP are premature, at best.  The media loves to count people out – and then build them up again (see Martha Stewart).  Disagreeing on principle is admirable, but any Republican candidate who jumps ship today may end up looking like the guy who wore a Dallas Cowboys jersey out this past Monday night. 

Thirteen months is an eternity in politics, and that’s how long Republicans have between now and the mid-term elections.  A lot will happen between now and then.   To paraphrase Ben Franklin, “We’ve got to hang together or we will hang together.”