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May 5, 2006
A Flash Of The Obvious

The AP reports that the major reason for George Bush's erosion in the polls has been a loss of support among conservatives instead of the center. The poll reveals that conservatives help drive the "wrong direction" number in the political polls:

Angry conservatives are driving the approval ratings of President Bush and the GOP-led Congress to dismal new lows, according to an AP-Ipsos poll that underscores why Republicans fear an Election Day massacre.

Six months out, the intensity of opposition to Bush and Congress has risen sharply, along with the percentage of Americans who believe the nation is on the wrong track. ...

• Just 33 percent of the public approves of Bush's job performance, the lowest of his presidency. That compares with 36 percent approval in early April. Forty-five percent of self-described conservatives now disapprove of the president.

• Just one-fourth of the public approves of the job Congress is doing, a new low in AP-Ipsos polling and down 5 percentage points since last month. A whopping 65 percent of conservatives disapprove of Congress.

• A majority of Americans say they want Democrats rather than Republicans to control Congress (51 percent to 34 percent). That's the largest gap recorded by AP-Ipsos since Bush took office. Even 31 percent of conservatives want Republicans out of power.

• The souring of the nation's mood has accelerated the past three months, with the percentage of people describing the nation on the wrong track rising 12 points to a new high of 73 percent. Six of 10 conservatives say America is headed in the wrong direction.

This underscores the reality of Bush's administration and its loose affiliation with conservative values. It's a recurring theme that has worsened since the 2004 election. Bush has, until very recently, done nothing to rein in spending. In fact, he has expanded government profligacy in almost every department and by almost every measure. Instead of limiting federal reach into education, a continuous conservative hot-button, Bush expanded it dramatically with the No Child Left Behind program and an immediate 57% increase in spending, and 137% overall for his entire term. He convinced conservatives to support it on the promise of finally getting school voucher programs implemented, then double-crossed them when the bill stalled in Congress.

That has been the pattern with Bush, and conservatives have tired of it. Conservatives bided their time and waited patiently for the federal court nominations that prompted so many of them to turn out in both 2000 and 2004. When two openings appeared at the Supreme Court, the conservatives had their opportunity to get their vindication for supporting a big-spending Republican. When Bush named a long-time crony with questionable credentials instead of a solid, well-known conservative, the conservatives rebelled -- and they have not stopped yet.

In Congress, much the same dynamic has occurred. Conservatives brought the numbers which allowed the GOP to take control of the House in 1994, and have provided the necessary support for their continued dominance. Unfortunately, the principles which garnered conservative enthusiasm has been abandoned by the GOP. The Republican-controlled Congress has gone on pork orgies, drastically increased federal spending (up 23% after inflation outside of defense, homeland security, and Katrina spending), and provided little leadership for key conservative positions on immigration and judicial appointments.

Under these conditions, trying to convince conservatives to continue their enthusiasm for Republican candidates is somewhat insulting. The only major conservative domestic policy passed by the GOP during the past few years have been the tax cuts, which didn't even get cut on a permanent basis despite their obvious importance to the economic recovery. The Bush administration and the GOP-controlled Congress look more like a satire of everything the conservatives oppose -- and the only reason why they haven't bolted the party is that the alternative looks even worse.

That's a recipe for apathy, not for enthusiasm, and that's why the GOP appears to be in so much trouble at the moment. The only issue that would mobilize the conservative base now would be a Democratic attempt at impeachment, and it may be that the Democrats might be foolish enough to make that a campaign issue. That's a mighty thin reed for Republican hopes for November. If they want the conservatives to support them in the numbers they need, Congress and the Bush administration had better start promoting conservative values on the budget and immigration.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 5, 2006 5:59 AM

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