December 5, 2007

The Hidden Treasure For Republicans

Many have linked to the latest Gallup poll that corroborates earlier findings by Rasmussen -- that public perception of the surge in Iraq has grown significantly more optimistic. One subtlety has not yet surfaced that may give the Republicans reason to hope for better success in 2008's elections:

Four in 10 Americans now say the U.S. troop surge in Iraq that began earlier this year is making the situation there better. This is up from 34% four weeks ago and from 22% when Gallup first measured it in July.

Since August, more Americans have tended to say the surge is making the situation in Iraq better rather than worse, but today's ratio -- 40% vs. 20% -- is the most positive yet recorded. Thirty-nine percent of Americans currently say the surge is not making any difference; this is down from 43% in September and 51% in July.

This reinforces the shift seen in Rasmussen's polling. For the first time in many polls, a plurality believe the US to be winning in Iraq. This hasn't yet translated into support for the war itself. Both polls note a majority opposing it, although that also doesn't translate into a majority for immediate withdrawal. It's a complicated issue for polling, but the numbers in most cases appear moving in favor of the current strategy.

Nowhere does that reflect more than with independents. In the Rasmussen poll, the center shows a tossup on Iraq. Gallup sees something else:

Currently, 18% of Democrats say the surge is making the situation in Iraq better, no different from the 19% saying this last month. Republican attitudes on the question have remained about the same. The upward movement in positive reviews has come mostly from political independents.

However, given that, on an ideological basis, almost all of the increase is seen among conservatives, it appears these are independents with a natural affinity toward Republicans.

It appears the GOP has a chance to convince independents to support the party, especially those who left in disgust in 2006 on a variety of issues. A significant portion of independents self-identify as conservatives, as implied by the results of this polling. That's where Republicans must mine for votes in 2008.

How can they do that? The Republican Party has to demonstrate that it learned its lesson form the 2006 spanking. They need to stop indulging in pork-barrel spending and start getting serious about fiscal discipline. That encompasses more than just tax cuts; the GOP has to fulfill its mandate and start looking for programs to cut out of a bloated federal budget.

If the Republicans can build credibility on these issues, they have a chance to take back the House, even if they have no real chance to take back the Senate. With Iraq improving both on the ground and in the polls, the GOP has an opportunity to show that they deserve another shot at leadership. After the do-nothing chaos of Democratic leadership in 2007, that case should be easy to make.


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