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Monday, December 17, 2007

The Republicans and Their President

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Monday, December 17th

President Bush has, roughly, a 34% job approval rating. Different polls vary a few percentage points (Rasmussen, Gallup, FoxNews have him a bit higher. CNN, LA Times, and Washington Post a bit lower), but his approval rating has been in the low-to-mid 30's for the entire year, so we can stop talking about the margin of error or positive and negative news cycles when it comes to his actual job approval from the American people. Approximately one third of the country has a favorable view of his job performance.

One of the numerous interesting aspects of this presidential campaign is that, for the first time since 1920, there is a two-term president whose vice-president is not running to replace him. Gore ran after Clinton, Bush I after Reagan, and Nixon after Eisenhower. Not since the relatively un-ambitious Thomas Marshall declined to campaign for the Presidency after Woodrow Wilson's two terms has there been such a vacuum heading into a presidential campaign cycle.

One of the last duties of an incumbent two-term President is to endorse his party's nominee. Of course, he has always left this to the party's primary process, waiting for the nominee to be evident, and then endorsing said nominee at the party's convention. Whether President Bush will follow this tradition remains to be seen.

However, another role of a two-term President is either as a sail or an anchor. A popular outgoing President, say a Washington, a Monroe, a Reagan, or a Clinton is a great asset to the Vice-President or to any other nominee of the party. The nominee of the popular President's party, not to mention the other candidates for that party's nomination, can throw their arms around the President, not only in the primary, but in the general election as well. They can succeed under the "party" line of four more similar, successful years.

But what of the candidates vying for that nomination whose President is unpopular? How does one effectively distance themselves from the man who leads the party, but has steered the party platform for eight years?

In the current situation, it is difficult for the Republican candidates not only because the President is unpopular by nearly a 2 to 1 margin across the country, but ironically because the President still has a majority of support in the Republican Party itself. Therefore, if the candidate wants to be President, they cannot too closely support the popular President. However, if the candidate wants to even have a shot at the Oval Office, they must be nominated, and for that to happen, he must support the President who is still popular in the party.

Tough spot.

So, as we read articles like this one from Breitbart.com, which talks about the two different ways that Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney orate their allegiance to President Bush, remember that the Republican candidates are walking a fine line. The Democrats can bash the President to win the nomination and the general. That's easy. However, with all the media scrutiny these days, a Republican candidate will have to eat all pro-Bush comments for lunch this fall.

In sum, there's a reason why Ron Paul can't win the nomination... but there's also a reason John McCain can't win the general.

3 comments:

sptmck said...

As always, I'm impressed with your insight. And what about Judas Joe? Troll.

David said...

You comment on Thomas Marshall is an interesting one ... it is something that the country has a situation today that parallels the 1920 election.

A word on Thomas Marshall ... after Wilson's stroke in October of 1919, Marshall was pressured by both parties to assume the presidency. (Many felt Marshall would make the compromises necessary on the League of Nations to win Senate support.) Marshall declined to try to remove Wilson's powers, telling his wife: "I could send this country into civil war, but I won't". In addition, Marshall's only child, age 3, died in March of 1920.

You are correct in pointing out that Marshall was not, by nature, an ambitious man. But he was loyal to Wilson and the institution of the Presidency, and declined to become president when many politicians of today would have tried to do so.

More information is available in "He Almost Changed the World: The Life and Times of Thomas Riley Marshall."

IC said...

Sptmck: CT Dems are fuming!

David: A very appreciated addition to the blog post. Thanks!

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