Back in the day when W’s poll numbers were through the roof there was much talk of a Republican realignment by the president’s chief political adviser and confidant Karl Rove.
Rove waxed poetic about creating a lasting Republican majority. During those heady times Rove told anyone within earshot that his role model in this endeavor was the legendary political boss Mark Hanna who was primarily responsible for the political career of William McKinley.
Hanna helped elect McKinley to the governors mansion in Ohio and then to the Presidency in 1896.
During the race of 1896 it is said Hanna ran a hardball campaign for his principal McKinley and for the time raised an unprecedented amount of money.
When Bush was re-elected, Bush hailed Rove as the "the architect" Rove was in effect "Hanna" reborn.
Rove was on top of the world as was considered by many to be a political "wunderkind"
George W was being compared to Reagan and the there was talk of spending political capital and reforming social security.
The fact is that many conservatives who are not inside the "beltway" had concerns about the Bush/ Rove agenda from virtually day one.
First and foremost as a concern was that any private public policy disagreement within the family was seen as disloyalty to the administration.
And in fact those who disagreed were summarily shut out, or not granted access to the White House.
Many conservatives also were alarmed when Bush and Rove went on their big government expansion spree by siding with Ted Kennedy on “No Child Left Behind” and the arm twisting that went on by Tom Delay the President’s water carrier for big government in the House by the passage of the Prescription Drug bill arguably the largest expansion of government since the New Deal.
Seeing an a mandate with 51% of the vote Bush and Rove rolled the dice and spent their political capital by making reform of social security their “signature issue” for the start of the President’s second term.
At the time many conservatives questioned the sequencing of the president’s legislative agenda and would have preferred that the Bush administration lead with making the tax cuts permanent.
After all, Republicans were in the majority and making the tax cuts permanent seemed much more doable to many of us than taking on social security the third rail of American politics and one that is near and dear to the true believers in the Democratic party.
Less than a year into Bush's second term, the President's approval rating was down around 40 percent.
To hold on to power it was thought that earmarks and largesse were key.
Marc Rotterman worked on the national campaign of Reagan for President in 1980, served on the presidential transition team in 1980, worked in the Reagan Administration from 1981-1984, is a senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, NC and a former member of the board of the American Conservative Union.
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