Politics is pretty simple. If the debate in an upcoming election puts your party at a disadvantage, it makes sense to try to change the debate. At the moment, the 2006 midterm election is framed as a referendum on the Bush administration and congressional Republicans, putting Republican candidates on the defensive. Party strategists, led by chairman Ken Mehlman, want to rejigger the debate so it's about a choice between candidates, putting Democratic candidates on the defensive as well. In short, they want it to be a choice election, not a referendum election.
Precisely. What the Democrats have to do is nationalize the election (as the Reps did in 1994 with their Contract with America and the requirement that the voters choose Republicans to implement it). What the Republicans want to do is keep it local. Then it becomes a choice between local candidates and that is where incumbents and demographics have the advantage.
If the Democrats succeed in making the election a defacto referendum on the Bush presidency, then they could suffer a possible loss of the House. On the other side of that, Barnes is of the opinion that the Republicans are going to use two issues to raise the elections to a national level:
For 2006, the Republican National Committee, the White House, and most Senate and House Republicans are on board with the choice strategy. In fact, some members of Congress are already repeating a phrase first used by Bush in meetings with congressional allies. It's an assertion that Democrats would "raise your taxes and raise the white flag" in Iraq.
Look for it. But also look for Democrats to remind you of the spending spree Congress has been on and the recent raising of the debt ceiling without spending offsets. Imagine that, Democrats talking about fiscal profligacy ... in their opponents.
There's also a part two to the strategy:
There's another part of the 2006 Republican strategy. This spring and summer, Republican leaders in the Senate and House plan to bring up a series of issues that are popular with the Republican base of voters. The aim is to stir conservative voters and spur turnout in the November election. Just last week, House Majority Leader John Boehner and Whip Roy Blunt met with leaders of conservative groups to talk about these issues.
House Republicans, for their part, intend to seek votes on measures such as the Bush-backed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a bill allowing more public expression of religion, another requiring parental consent for women under 18 to get an abortion, legislation to bar all federal courts except the Supreme Court from ruling on the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance, a bill to outlaw human cloning, and another that would require doctors to consider fetal pain before performing an abortion.
Ah electoral politics: the usual scare tactics and red-meat issues which go nowhere when the Congress actually goes back to work. This is fodder for the base. The whole point here is to generate turnout, not legislation. That's not to say some weak attempt may not be made on some of these issues if Republicans keep their majority. But if they fix the problem they have to invent new red-meat topics. Just as Democrats use race, social security, medicare, medicaid, welfare and taxes for the same purpose, the Republicans will be banging the election turnout drum with these.
In short the strategy is change subject (from referendum to choice) and stir up the base. Hey, it's worked well for years. Unless the Dems come up with a formula to thwart it, it ought to work again in 2006.
best thing might be for them to seize the House in 2006. It would wake up the Republicans and let them know they cannot keep crapping on their base. The Dems would them self-immolate by trying to impeach Bush. http://impudent.blognation.us/blog