Tuesday, August 24, 2004

No Plan B

Noam Scheiber, author of The New Republic's "&c" blog, took notice of the same Ron Browstein piece on Bush's base-o-centric strategy that I highlighted yesterday. But while I cast cold water on the idea that BC04 could make up for its weakness among undecided voters by winning the turnout wars, Noam's take is that the GOPs attention to the base is defensive, aimed at dealing with conservative disgruntlement over administration policies. Either way, it's not a good sign for Bush.

But Scheiber also suggests that Brownstein is buying into some sort of devious GOP spin by taking seriously their talk of writing off swing voters. If that's the case, he says, "Then why'd the White House even bother with things like prescription drugs, immigration reform, and the Mars mission--things they knew had a high probability of pissing off conservatives?"

Well, Noam, the answer's simple: Karl Rove did have a swing voter strategy, but it has failed.

It had four prongs:

(1) Winning over married women with kids through the No Child Left Behind education reform initiative. Thanks to its poor implementation of NCLB, the White House has managed to anger anti-testing zealots on the left and local-control freaks on the right, without getting much credit from those who like the basic idea but think it's been bungled.

(2) Buying the votes of seniors with a Rx drug benefit. That's been an even bigger woofer. Seniors hate the new initiative, and won't even sign up for the least controversial part, the drug discount cards.

(3) Making gains with Latinos through a "guest worker" proposal. Best I can tell, the proposal hasn't moved a single Latino voter in the President's direction, though it did royally honk off the ever-present if quiescent xenophobic wing of the Republican Right. That's probably why you haven't heard anything about it lately.

(4) Cutting into the Democratic margin among Jews by conspicuously identifying the administration with the embattled Israeli government of Ariel Sharon. According to the one relevant poll of American Jews, released just last week, Bush is running no better with this constituency than he did in 2000--which is to say, horribly.

In other words, the Bushies may be resorting to a "conservative turnout" strategy because they don't have any other choice at this late date. Karl Rove, whom the President reportedly likes to call "the man with the plan," had a plan for swing voters, but it hasn't worked, and there's no Plan B.
-- Posted at 2:46 PM | Link to this post | Email this post

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