How To Screw Rove - A Last-Minute Appeal To GOP Moderates
Last week Bush tried to appeal to Democrats to encourage them to cross over. I was watching Bill Moyers' "Now" on PBS Friday night, and he had Richard Viguerie on as a guest, who apparently has been good friends with Moyers for years. Viguerie said that no matter who wins the election, right after the result is decided there will be a civil war inside the GOP for control of the party, between traditional Reagan conservatives like Viguerie and the new Neo-Cons and right wing extremists who are behind Bush and running the party now. Although I had read several stories about this in a couple of the center-left magazines in the last several months (both the American Prospect and the Washington Monthly), I had never focused on it until I heard one of the big players in the party admit to it on national TV.
Viguerie said that the biggest flashpoints between Reagan conservatives and the Neo-Con and right-wing extremists controlling the party came down to:
•fiscal discipline, where Bush seems to spend money like a drunken sailor to secure the votes of interest groups without regard for the crushing debt that is being forced onto our children;
•religious extremism and overt imperialism, where fanaticism is actually driving our social and foreign policies and the use of our troops in ill-advised wars of liberation with no clear national interest or exit strategy defined;
•the abandonment of Main Street for Wall Street, where the GOP has left behind its small business base and local communities for the sake of securing the support of multinational conglomerates who don't have the best interests of our communities and country at heart.
I was struck by the fact that there obviously is a great level of unease in the GOP right now, and I thought immediately that perhaps these schisms could be exploited by Kerry in the closing days of the campaign. Why couldn't Kerry mess with Rove's head and upset the GOP apple cart by making direct appeals to Main Street, small businessmen and women, fiscal conservatives, and especially GOP moderates in the last two days of the campaign?
Kerry will be in states where this could take place, and the campaign staff could highlight this in their discussions with the national media. Some talking points can be developed around each of these issues where Kerry could explicitly make references to the fact that today's GOP is not the GOP that Ronald Reagan worked to create, and show how his administration would actually:
•Unlike Bush, put a bigger emphasis on embracing fiscal discipline in a bipartisan way like Clinton did in the 90's;
•Unlike Bush, undertake policies that favor Main Street over Wall Street, giving our independent and small business owners relief so that they can better compete in their communities against large corporations;
•Unlike Bush, foster bipartisan respect for differences of opinion and religious beliefs;
•Unlike Bush, rebuild the bipartisan consensus in support of efforts to protect the environment and our workers by asking moderates in the GOP to work with Democrats to pursue public interest instead of private gain.
This message will not take much to put together, and can be put out there as a signal that Kerry is reaching out to the Reagan supporters in both parties in an effort to go after swing voters in the last days of the campaign. Kerry can make the argument that in today's right-wing extremist GOP, Reagan Republicans are actually moderates with no home in the GOP, who are welcome to work with a Kerry Administration to pursue the policies above. This can be sold by Lockhart and McCurry as an example that Kerry is feeling good enough about his own position with his base that he can appeal to swing voters and Republicans who have been left behind by Bush/Cheney and today's extremist, Wall Street GOP.
The message will work pretty well in those states that Kerry needs in the upper Midwest and especially in Ohio. It will also help in other states like Missouri and Virginia, but we don't have enough time to sell it personally in those areas.
Plus, Rove would not see it coming and he is only prepared to argue the terror card in the last days of the campaign. Any appeal to Reagan Democrats and Republicans on pocketbook and value issues by calling for a return to developing a moderate consensus in this country works against Bush's last minute "all terror, all the time" appeal to his base. It would leave Kerry out there going after these people all by himself and with Bush having no last-minute response. It might pull 1-2% of the GOP vote over to Kerry, as well as clinch the remaining undecideds. And in this election, that would be enough to not only win, but perhaps build an Electoral College cushion in those upper Midwest states.
Kerry can afford to do this now, as he has successfully re-secured his base. Now, he can outmaneuver Rove in the final days and pivot to an appeal towards folks who are already primed to do battle with Bush on November 3 anyway.