The Self Made Pundit
Wednesday, October 23, 2002
ROPE-A-DOPE: President Bush could be making a classic blunder by spending the last two weeks before the midterm elections on the campaign trail rather than staying above the fray and focusing on his duties as Commander in Chief.
The party controlling the White House has won House seats in a midterm election only twice in the past century. In 1934, the Democrats gained seats while FDR stayed in the White House fighting the Great Depression. In 1998, the Democrats gained seats while Bill Clinton stayed in the White House tending to presidential duties and fighting off a Republican-led impeachment drive that was unpopular with the voters. By contrast, Bush’s decision to get into the electoral mud of campaigning is likely to squander the Republicans’ chances to keep the House and regain the Senate.
Recent polls have shown Democrats with a slight lead in the overall congressional vote nationwide, due to voters’ preference for Democrats on economic and other domestic issues. Republicans have been able to stay close mainly due to Americans’ rallying round Bush as a war-time leader. This impression of Bush as Commander in Chief has been buttressed in recent weeks by Bush’s focusing on Iraq as an imminent threat to America.
The message that Iraq is an imminent threat, however, is made far less compelling by Bush’s leaving the Iraq problem to be debated by U.N. diplomats while he spends his days on the important tasks of campaigning for Republican congressional candidates state senator Jim Gerlach and former Congressional aide Kevin L. Raye.
Bush’s presence on the campaign trail stumping for obscure Republicans also presents a target for the Democrats who have largely feared to criticize Bush as a war-time leader. Democrats are now free to nationalize the election by asking why Bush is on the campaign trail instead of tending to the faltering economy.
If Bush thought he had the Democrats on the ropes, he may yet discover that on Social Security, the economy and other domestic issues, they can still sting like a bee.