Thursday, March 29, 2007

Is the GOP Dead in 2008?

The Politico reports 'GOP Fears 2008 Meltdown:'

Republicans across the country are warning that increasing public discontent toward President Bush, the Iraq war and the GOP brand in general threatens to send the party's 2008 campaign planning into a tailspin.

Already, the problems are having tangible effects. Some of the party's top recruits in key races from Colorado to Florida are refusing to run for Congress. Business executives -- the financial backbone of the GOP -- are sending more and more money to Democrats. Overall Republican fundraising is down sharply from the same time frame during the past two presidential elections.

Then there are the voters.

Polling data released this month confirm what GOP officials are picking up anecdotally: Swing voters are swinging away from Republicans at high velocity. Most alarming to GOP strategists is a new survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center that found 50 percent of those interviewed consider themselves a Democrat or leaning that way; only 35 percent tilt Republican.

This should not be totally dismissed, but the panicky reaction is silly. Yes, voters form opinions of parties, and those opinions are not shed willy-nilly. Further, if low poll numbers discourage strong GOP candidates from seeking office in 2008, then those polls can yield a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But the GOP brand in 2008 is not George W. Bush - who will be more or less forgotten by the time of the election. Rather, the brand will be Giuliani, or Romney, or Thompson, or McCain. That candidate will - to a large degree - determine how voters view the party.

I remember prior to the 1992 election, when people debated whether the Democratic party would soon go the way of the Whigs and the Federalists. People reasoned that if the Democrats could only win one Presidential race in 20 years - and that one victory due to Watergate - that they could no longer compete. The Ross Perot phenomenon gave fuel to the discussion. Not only did the Democratic party not disband, but Bill Clinton won the Presidency.

It's silly for anyone - Republican or Democrat - to put much stock in election indicators for an election 18 months away. The GOP could win in a romp in 2008, and a Republican President could have broad coattails. To wit:

...So why, in poll after poll, including the new TIME poll, does that advantage seem to disappear whenever voters are asked to pick a president in hypothetical head-to-head match-ups among front-runners with solid name recognition. In our poll, Hillary Clinton loses to John McCain, 42-48%, and to Rudy Giuliani 41-50%. Even though Clinton maintains a 7% edge over Obama among Democratic respondents, Obama fares better in the general election match-ups. It's so close that it's a statistical dead-heat, but Obama still loses: 43-45% to McCain, 44-45% to Giuliani...

Another GOP advantage in these match-ups is the way the party's top two candidates are viewed by the public. "Giuliani and McCain are not traditional Republicans," says Schulman. "Rather they both have an independent streak that plays well in certain traditional Democratic bastions, such as the Northeast and California, the left and right coasts." As anyone following the campaign knows, the perceived "independent streak" that helps both McCain and Giuliani with the general electorate could hurt them, and possibly doom them, with GOP primary voters...

Add that to the fact that Iraq is unlikely to be the top issue in 2008, and Republican candidates should compete quite well in 2008.

And with regard to the prediction that Iraq will not be the top '08 issue, I am absolutely going to write 'I told you so' quite often if it comes to pass. Because come on, I'm the only one saying it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, you didn't tell us so.