Debra J. Saunders
11/8/2002 12:00:00 AM - Debra J. Saunders
Call it leadership. The Dems were slamming President Bush for
stumping for congressional candidates while he was trying to drum up support
for U.S. military action against Iraq. Ignoring the clamor, Dubya didn't
History argued against his efforts. A GOP president had never
gained legislative seats during his first term. Still, Bush pushed on. More
than that, he campaigned down to the wire for other candidates harder than
when he campaigned for himself in 2000.
His personal poll numbers dropped. Bush stayed the course. "The
president doesn't govern by polls, and he doesn't make his decisions based
on polls," explained spokesman Ken Lisaius. Americans clearly welcomed an
end to finger-in-the-wind politics.
Bush risked his own political skin to win the Senate. He wanted
to end the gridlock from Democrat-controlled committees stalling the passage
of budget bills, homeland security legislation, an energy package and
approval of judicial nominees.
Bush knows better than to gloat. Wednesday, in a show of
bipartisanship, Bush called newly elected Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. That's a
nice touch, but Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott has my permission to
move the office of Sen. James Jeffords -- Vermont's
Republican-turned-Democrat-leaning independent -- to the basement.
Where did the Dems go wrong? They accused Bush of playing
politics on Iraq. Bush stood firm, letting the Democrats play the angles,
both supporting and distancing themselves from the Bush/Iraq policy.
Never discount the hubris factor in politics. When New Jersey
Democratic Party suits dumped Sen. Robert Torricelli for the more electable
Frank Lautenberg, they ticked off Repubs nationwide.
Then came the "memorial service" for Sen. Paul Wellstone,
D-Minn., and his wife and daughter. Of course, a funereal event for a
politician will be political. But after the Dems talked up the need for
Minnesotans to have time to grieve Wellstone, they presented a service with
all the hallmarks of a political rally -- except a balloon drop and chants
of "four more years."
Each time the camera showed former President Bill and now-Sen.
Hillary Clinton gleefully glad-handing other pols, GOP voter resolve
Indeed, Bush could have had a national sweep, from the Maryland
statehouse to Sacramento, if only the Bushies hadn't flubbed California.
According to The Los Angeles Times, some 60 percent of
California voters had a negative impression of Gov. Gray Davis' job
performance. Davis garnered 1.7 million fewer votes this year than in 1998,
and fewer votes than Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante. Davis may have
beat Bill Simon 47 percent to 42 percent, but it's clear Davis would have
lost to a better Republican.
The GOP probably would have picked a different nominee --
Secretary of State Bill Jones -- except that the Bushies prodded former Los
Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan into the race. Big mistake. Riordan was
contemptuous of GOP voters, fluid in his opinions and a big donor to Davis
campaigns. Davis ran ads against Riordan. It was Riordan who shot Riordan in
both feet; the primary went to Simon.
If the Bushies had stayed out of the primary, chances are Jones
would have trumped the not-ready-for-primetime Simon. But noooo. The Bushies
had to punish Jones for switching his endorsement from Bush to John McCain
Jones lost -- and the GOP lost California. Too bad that the
White House's willingness to reach out to Democrats doesn't extend to
occasionally wayward Republicans.