Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Pincer Movement

The Pincer Movement is a common strategy in war, Hannibal used to it deliver a devastating defeat to the Romans. In politics it's a strategy that can wreak havoc on an opponent, but it's difficult to come by the right situation. One of the best uses of it was in the 2002 Republican Primary for Governor in California. Richard Riordan was a popular from mayor of Los Angeles and a pro-choice Republican, which helped him in the general election, where the voters are strongly pr-choice, but hurt him in the primary, where the voters are strongly anti-choice. The Democratic Governor running for re-election, Gray Davis, aired ads during the primary accusing Riordan of not really being pro-choice. Riordan was left with the choice of defending his pro-choice credentials and hurt himself in the primary or agreeing with the ads and hurting himself in the general election. Riordan chose the former and lost the primary, giving Davis a weaker general election opponent.

So recently, those opposing Jimbo, were given two big gifts. First, 65% of the voters in the district disapprove of Bush's job in office (48% strongly disapprove). Second, is this memo from Bush's pollster:

1. President Bush continues to have the strong loyal support of Republican voters. Despite slippage in approval ratings among all voters, the President's job approval among Republicans continues to be very high. Most members will be elected with between 80% and 100% of their support coming from Republicans. I don't see that Republicans driving a wedge between themselves and the President is a good election strategy.

2. My read of the current environment is that our problem will be turnout. '06 could become an election like '82 or '84. In '82 Republicans showed up at relatively normal turnout rates, while Democrats, because they were angry, showed up at abnormally high turnout rates. In '94, Republican turnout was elevated, while Democratic turnout was depressed. We have every reason to believe '06 could become the inverse of '82. We don't see signs of a depressed Republican turnout yet, but we have every reason to believe Democrats will turn out in high numbers. Anything we do to depress turnout, by not running as a unified party for instance, could very well lead to serious consequences in November.

3. The President is seen universally as the face of the Republican Party. We are now brand W. Republicans. The following chart shows the extremely close correlation between the President’s image and overall ratings of the party. President Bush drives our image and will do so until we have real national front-runners for the '08 nomination. Attacking the President is counter productive for all Republicans, not just the candidates launching the attacks. If he drops, we all drop.

This leaves Jimbo with two choices, defend Bush and hurt himself with those who disapprove of Bush's job or distance himself from Bush and hurt himself with his/Bush's base. Good luck Jimbo!



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