Sunday :: Jan 18, 2004

While Democrats Tussle Amongst Themselves, the GOP Revs Their Campaign

by Mary

Posted by Mary
For the next couple of months, most of the political attention will be on the Democratic primary and the public side of Bush's campaign as he goes forth to reap the mountain of cash from his supporters. But for all the attention paid to how the Democratic candidates are building their organizations and jockeying for the nomination, it would be a mistake to ignore what is going on the GOP front. The GOP plans to run a campaign of Bush, the bold, visionary moderate while rallying their rightwing base and finding the best ways to depress the votes of the Democrats. The American Prospect has an important report on the stealthy, yet determined campaign that the GOP is preparing for this election that should not be missed.

When Bush did not win outright in 2000, the GOP post-election analysis showed the grassroots person-to-person contact conducted by the Unions was the biggest factor that they had missed (along with their somewhat soft turnout by the evangelicals). They are determined to out-grassroots the Democrats and are building their outreach now. They also know if they turn out their grassroots, and they increase their percentage of Black and Hispanic votes by even a small percentage and they discourage Democratic turnout, that they have a very formidible advantage.

As with everything about the Bush presidency, its re-election campaign seems to exist at two levels. There's the public campaign, in which a moderate, visionary president comes up with inclusionary programs -- pro-Mars, pro-Mexican -- to broaden his base of support. And there are the more niche campaigns, hidden in the shadows, in which the campaign stirs its right-wing supporters to action by appealing to their baser instincts. There are impressive efforts to register and turn out millions of new voters. And there's evidence of national Republican efforts to perfect longstanding voter-intimidation programs directed at blacks and Hispanics.

All that can lead to a multitude of messages. Having endeared himself to movement conservatives during his first three years in office, for instance, the president is now moving more to the center to pick off portions of the Democratic base with such policies as his prescription-drug coverage act and his proposal for immigration reform. Both policy shifts fall far short of meeting the real needs of the targeted populations, but politically they're intended to move small percentages of senior and Hispanic voters into the Republican column. Republican strategists, for instance, speak of boosting Bush's share of the Hispanic vote from the 35 percent he won in 2000 to 38 percent next year, which could spell the Republican margin of victory in New Mexico and Arizona. In a nation more or less split down the middle between Democrats and Republicans, just a little movement within discrete constituencies can drop three or four additional states into your column.

But while broadcasting moderation, the campaign is also narrow casting a meaner message toward its true believers. There's a neat division of labor here: While the e-mails that go out over the president's signature to supporters are chipper and unremarkable, those from Mehlman sometimes play to classic right-wing phobias in order to keep supporters' zealotry suitably stoked.


Voter registration and identification weren't the only mobilization programs that occupied the Republicans in 2003, however. They were involved in a major voter-intimidation program as well. The battleground on which they tested their latest tactics was the Philadelphia mayor's race, where the campaign of the Republican challenger, Sam Katz, grew extremely nervous at the success the Democrats had had at registering minority voters. The Republican response was an attempt to scare black and Hispanic voters away from the polls -- not a new trick in the Republican playbook by any means, but one that the DNC had better be studying and preparing to confront this November.

Read it all. And then find a way to help counter this juggernaut - by donating your money, your time and your energy to one of the Democratic GOTV efforts.

Mary :: 11:42 AM :: Comments (2) :: Digg It!