Be Afraid. Be Very AfraidThis headline in the Washington Post didn't start my day off very well:
GOP Aims for Dominance in '04 RaceMost of the actual article wasn't much better:
Republicans to Seek Governing Majority by Feeding Base, Courting New Voters
Republican strategists see the 2004 election as their best opportunity in a generation to construct a durable governing majority, and they have set in motion a systematic and coordinated strategy designed to leverage President Bush's popularity and break the impasse that has dominated the country's politics since the mid-1990s.On the other hand, there were signs of hope:
Signs of Close ElectionI like the "wait and see attitude." People with a "wait and see attitude" are open to a little "show and tell." That's where we come in.
There are good reasons for Bush strategists to anticipate a close election. Given the unsettled state of the world and the still-weak economy, a second Bush term is far from assured -- let alone the goal of making Republicans the country's majority party.
Early polls show Bush receiving the support of less than 50 percent of the public when matched against a generic Democratic nominee. That is far below his approval rating, suggesting a wait-and-see attitude on the part of many voters.
Economic problems could derail hopes for a second Bush term just as quickly as they did for his father in 1992. "If we're below about 2 percent real growth, this [election] could degenerate into a dogfight," said former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). "If we're in a recession, this will be a dogfight. If we're above 2 percent real growth, I just think the Democrats are in a world of hurt."
Instability in Iraq, questions about whether Bush or other administration officials misled the public about the threat of weapons of mass destruction, violence in the Middle East and continued fears about terrorist attacks at home threaten claims of success in foreign policy. That could transform one of Bush's clearest advantages into an arena for challenge by the Democrats.