Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Great Awakening?

It has been no secret that the Emperor has been using the anniversary of 9/11 as a theme for his multiple speeches over the past two weeks. The hope was that by emphasizing a major disaster and connecting it the "Global War on Terror" the American public could be brought around to believing that the Iraq War is a necessary element in the overall strategy in that broader war for a safe and secure America and that only Republicans could lead in the effort. It's election time, after all. Hey, it worked in 2002 and 2004, right?

Well, the strategy may not be working this time around, according to an interesting little article in today's NY Times. One of a series on a district in Colorado that is pretty evenly split along party lines, the piece examines the response to the President's recent speechifying.

Mr. Bush has plenty of supporters in this Denver suburb and the surrounding cities, an evenly divided swing district that is a bellwether in the battle for control of the House. But interviews over the last three days here found Republicans, Democrats and independents all expressing degrees of skepticism about Mr. Bush’s motives in delivering a set of high-profile speeches on terrorism and the war in Iraq two months before Election Day.

While it is too early to know whether the White House will succeed in winning over enough voters to make a difference in what is shaping up as a tight race, the interviews suggested that Mr. Bush’s newest efforts to cast his party as better suited than Democrats to defend the country had yet to overcome concern and anger among many voters about Iraq and a more generalized sense of discontent with the administration.

... “I think it is the only card they have got,” said Floyd Ciruli, a longtime Denver pollster, referring to the national Republican focus on terrorism. “Will it make a difference in Colorado? Absolutely not.”

If so, that would be bad news for Congressional Republican leaders. They are counting on Mr. Bush’s concerted efforts to both raise his own public approval and to simultaneously help give Republican House and Senate candidates an edge on the security issues that have dominated the last two national elections. But polls indicate that the climate is different this year, with fewer Americans confident that the fight against terrorism is going well, and Democrats, including Mr. O’Donnell’s opponent, Ed Perlmutter, are vigorously trying to counter Mr. Bush.
[Emphasis added]

While the article tends to emphasize that people are growing weary of the constant harping on security (how many times can one realistically cry "wolf!" without becoming a bore?), it hints at what I suspect is the real feelings at play here: " a more generalized sense of discontent with the administration." Most people are seeing their real wages drop and their expenses (fuel, heating, essentials) rise, even while they are working longer and harder. Billions of dollars are being poured into Iraq and the President has assured them that this will continue indefinitely, even as the federal deficit continues to grow.

I sense a replay of the feelings expressed so well by a political animal from the recent past: "It's the economy, stupid," and that might very well be the crucial factor this November.


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