October 8, 2005

Would a Miers Fight Hurt the GOP in 2006?

Hatched by Dafydd

Over on Patterico's Pontifications, Patterico made the point that "Robert Bork’s defeat in 1987 didn’t seem to hurt Bush I much" (in his quest to succeed Reagan, I presume Patterico means).

Of course not. Reagan had already lost Congress, and the Senate was 55-45 in favor of the Democrats. It's expected that a president with a hostile Senate is going to lose nomination fights, and the electorate has already discounted that fact.

What hurts a party -- indeed, weakens it -- is when it has a strong majority and it still loses a nomination fight. Bush and the GOP were all right during the filibuster wars, but that was because of the wide perception among Republican voters that the Democrats were using improper and unfair tactics, where 41 senators could stop 59 senators from confirming a judge. The GOP repeatedly made the point that if those nominations had actually gone to a vote, each of them would have been confirmed: "we're not losers," the Republicans were saying; "the Democrats are cheating!" In fact, not a single confirmation cloture vote during Bush's presidency has failed to get a majority; each confirmation was blocked by a minority, typically even less than the entire Democratic caucus.

Americans hate cheaters.

But if the anti-Miers camp succeeds in sparking a revolt among six or seven of the most conservative Republican senators, leading to the rejection of Miers despite a strong GOP majority in the Senate, this will put the mark of Cain on the GOP, the scarlet-L for LOSERS. And that, much more than grudging acceptance by the Senate, is what will depress turnout.

How does that work, depressing turnout? The core of the base will vote; they always do; that's part of the definition of "core." But that only accounts for 38% - 40% of the total vote. So where does the other 11% - 13% come from to get to (say) 51%, as Bush got in 2004? It comes from what I call "sunshine voters." These are not party stalwarts but cast their votes depending on how they feel that particular day. This is not the same as "independents," because most of the latter have more-or-less consistent leanings but are unwilling to declare themselves members of either major party. I'm talking about the folks who truly switch their votes from election to election.

If the GOP comes across as Losers, it will be the sunshine voters who vote Democratic, vote for a goofy third-party candidate, or just stay home. They supported Bush in 2004 because he seemed like a winner, in contrast to Kerry, who seemed like a whiner. Americans hate losers just as much as they hate cheaters.

If you polled 1500 Republican voters, the percent that would recognize the name "J. Michael Luttig" would likely be in single digits, and virtually all would be core voters. The sunshiners are not upset that Bush nominated Miers instead of Luttig or Emilio Garza or Priscilla Owens; they don't even know who those people are, and they certainly wouldn't base a vote on that issue. What they're upset about right now is the absurd MSM-driven perception that we've lost in Iraq and thousands of American soldiers are being slaughtered every month, and the (partly true) perception that the Republicans are spending too much.

(I say "partly true" because spending as a pecent of GDP has been remarkably constant recently. In 2001, it was 18.5%; this rose to 19.4 and 19.9 in the next two years, dropped to 19.8 in 2004, rose to 20.3 this year (Katrina), and is 19.9 again in the 2006 budget. By contrast, the average during Reagan's administration was 22.4%, and at no time did spending ever drop below 21.)

By 2006, we will have pulled significant numbers of troops out of Iraq; and almost certainly, spending will be down from the Katrina-driven high this year. So there is no reason to believe, absent a civil war within the party, that the Republicans will do poorly in the 2006 campaign. Structurally, we're poised to pick up seats in the Senate (more engandered Democratic seats than Republican) and at least hold steady in the House.

But if we lose the sunshiners, that will spell electoral disaster. That's what happened to the Democrats in 1994; their core voted for them, but nobody else, and GOP turnout was unexpectedly high... because the sunshiners defected to the right for a variety of reasons (taxes, the failed Hillarycare proposal, and so forth). The 2006 sunshiners could defect left under several circumstances: if Iraq collapses; if Bush were to follow his father's lead and raise taxes; if some huge corruption scandal rocked the GOP (for example, if Patrick Fitzgerald indicted a dozen top Republicans in the Valerie Plame leak investigation); or if spending and deficits shot upward sharply. None of these is likely at this point; in Iraq, eventually perception will be forced at gunpoint to catch up to reality. Bush isn't going to raise taxes, and it's unlikely Fitzgerald can find any significant figures in the administration who (a) identified Plame by name to reporters and (b) actually had authorized access to the CIA personnel files -- neither Rove nor Libby would have that, for example. Indictments could only flow if officials stupidly lied under oath, which seems unlikely, since they're actually legally in the clear. And we're not likely to have another Cat-4 hurricane strike a huge city in 2006.

But the one thing that could turn the tide for the Democrats is if a civil war erupts within the GOP, and especially if several Republican senators campaign against and vote down Harriet Miers, or if they force Bush to withdraw her name. Ironically, the ones who might do this would be the most conservative senators in the reddest states -- and they won't suffer a bit for their defection, because red states vote red. Where it would make a difference would be in the purple states like Ohio, where DeWine is already in political trouble, and in Pennsylvania, where Rick Santorum is teetering on the brink. It could also hurt possible pickups in states like Washington (Cantwell) and Maryland, where disarray among the Democrats and a very atttractive Republican candidate in Lt. Gov. Michael Steele gives the GOP a real shot at stealing away the seat of retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes. The Loser Label on the Republican Party could the kiss of death in close Senate races.

So yes, a bloody internecine combat over Miers within the GOP has a much greater chance of damaging the party's chances in the 2006 elections, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, than could possibly happen if conservative senators gripe and bitch but in the end go ahead and vote to confirm her.

Patterico made another point earlier, that not even those calling for her confirmation, such as myself, actually think she was the best candidate -- or even a very good candidate. He's absolutely correct; I think this was a huge Bush mistake. And Patterico is also correct that Bush should have seen this reaction coming and been unsurprised. And in terms of "fault," if that is important to you, Bush certainly must shoulder some of the blame. But withdrawing her now in response to furious attacks by the conservatives would be just as bad as having her voted down by his own party: he would look like a right-wing sock puppet.

The last chance to avoid the collision with the eighteen-wheeler rests with the Senate Republicans. They, not Bush, are in the driver's seat now. And if the conservative senators put personal pique over party loyalty and start a donnybrook, and if we head-on the semi in 2006, then in the last analysis, the onus will be on them for not swerving when they had the chance.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 8, 2005, at the time of 3:48 PM

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» Three-Part Disharmony from Captain's Quarters
Earlier this week, the Washington Post asked me to write an analysis of the conservative reaction to the Harriet Miers nomination, after a recommendation from Michelle Malkin. It took up a bit of my evenings this week, one of the... [Read More]

Tracked on October 9, 2005 6:04 AM

» More thoughts on the Harriet Miers kerfuffle from Small Town Veteran
After several updates my previous post on this subject is getting a little long. Guess it's time to start a new one closer to the top of the page. Juliette Ochieng has a well thought out post on the Miers [Read More]

Tracked on October 9, 2005 3:12 PM


The following hissed in response by: deignan

It is impossible to "stop a civil war" in a political coalition by insisting on unity. The electorate are not subjects. They will or will not vote for a party or person by their own desires.

The best that can be done is to respond quickly and effectively to the indications of displeasure that they have the courtesy to send your way.

The worst thing to do is to tell them that they are "sexist" or "not team players" or "unfaithful" or "stupid". Do that, and you will make a lasting point on them and they will return the favor by puniching you at the ballot box just for the spite of it all if nothing else.

The above hissed in response by: deignan [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 8, 2005 4:43 PM

The following hissed in response by: RBMN

I heard this today, and it seems about right. George Bush picked himself--himself if he wore a bright blue dress and had a law degree--to serve on the Supreme Court. That's why he's so confident in his choice, and no-one else is.

As for 2006, I think local issues always trump national issues in an off-year election. 1994? That may have been the exception that proves the rule. I don't think Miers will have much effect on 2006. Either way, Bush is the same lame duck, and Bush might even redeem himself completely with his next pick, if and when that happens. The fight over Miers is just a lost cause. She'll be on the Court. And all this current upset will blow over, because Republicans are sane. At least 97% of 'em are.

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 8, 2005 5:16 PM

The following hissed in response by: deignan


The sane strategy is Tit for Tat.

If Miers is O'Connor, the GOP will be punished by the base (again and harder). There really is not much for pro-lifers to lose by punishing Bush and the GOP.

As you say, most people are sane.

The above hissed in response by: deignan [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 8, 2005 5:49 PM

The following hissed in response by: danupton

This is probably true. Bush has behaved like an abject fool and now it is the responsibility of the Republicans in the Senate to be the grownups and clean up the mess.

How will this be done? They have to lie. They have to lie like rugs. They have to lie like Bill Clinton. They have to sit down in their private meetings with her and come out saying that she has laid to rest all their doubts with her brilliance. Of course, they must say, the necessary confidentiality of these meetings precludes them from giving details, but they now have no questions about her qualifications, intelligence and conservative judicial philosophy.

Then in the confirmation hearings fawn over her and toss her softballs. Then send out operatives to whisper in the ears of folks like Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh and James Dobson that the fix is in. That Miers has sworn a blood oath by her immortal soul on pain of hellfire that she will take the first opportunity to repeal Roe. Then pray that she doesn't get the chance to uphold it until after 2008.

The above hissed in response by: danupton [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 8, 2005 6:25 PM

The following hissed in response by: RBMN

Re: deignan at October 8, 2005 05:49 PM

If I thought Miers was unacceptable, and I don't, then I'd have to punish myself, because by voting for George W. Bush, I put the "mechanism" (Bush) in place that picked Harriet Miers, and not the "other mechanism" (John Kerry) that would've picked someone like Erwin Chemerinsky.

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 8, 2005 6:37 PM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

It comes from what I call "sunshine voters."

OK...you make a Great Point here; however, the "sunshine voters" ain't squat without the "38% - 40%" core, in my humble opinion.

Screw the 'Warm Water'...i want it *HOT* or *COLD*!!! If i recall correctly, Jesus once said something about 'spewing warm water' from his mouth. ;)

Humble Low and Ignorant Insane swamp hermit me considers meself to be a part of the "Silent Majority" that showed up in the 2002 mid-Terms. i had not Voted in the 2000 Presidential Election, but did hear the MSM predicting “a win for Al Gore” long before the Voting Precincts here on the East Coast closed, and that seemed a tad strange when considering that there were other Time Zones involved. For the first time in this life on Planet Earth, humble me started paying some attention to Politics. Boy, was i in for a Dandy of an experience...so to speak.

It went back and forth, ‘Da Results did, until the Supreme Court finally decided ‘Da Results...correctly. Then the Democrats started blaming W for the Stock Market crashing...crashing that had clearly started back in March of 2000. Bashing W continued from the Democrats and MSM all during 2001, blaming him for the Market drops, for the economy, for the Enrons, etc...right up until the Attacks of 911, and W was even blamed for that!?! MSM was questioning the whereabouts of W, right after the Pentagon had been Attacked, and right after the WTC had collapsed from their Attack!?!?! That reporting was much more than just a tad strange, and during all of this, i came across a radio station that carried Neal Boortz and Rush Limbaugh...two people that i had never heard of.

By the time that the 2002 mid-Term Elections came up, i was a registered informed Voter, and not part of a “sunshine” group. The Democrat Party and their Socialistic Dogma ain’t going to be defeated by "sunshine voters"...simple as that. Dafydd, perhaps playing badminton with the Liberals until another Jimmy “The Mullah” Carter or Bill “Slick Willy” Clinton shows up sounds good to you, but i don’t think that such games help America. Personally, in my opinion, the time has come for all out WAR with these Terrorist supporting Dem dudes, and i don’t plan on fighting fair whilst destroying them completely.

In other words, if the core base of the Conservative Movement is represented by a "38% - 40%” Voter turnout, then i am more than willing to see Ms. Miers step-down, and see if the Republican Party is willing to *NUKE* the Democrat Party’s filibusters with or without the intervention of a John McCain....so to speak whilst addressing ‘Da mark of Cain.

America is in trouble, and has been for some time now. Fact is, i have always wondered how Bush “41” lost to Clinton “42”?!? i mean...it’s like Bush “41” gave the whole Socialistic world what they are now demanding...enough said.

America best wake up real soon...because, chances and time have ran out. It is basically only the core base of the Republican Party (i am a registered Libertarian) that has helped W make it this far, and “sunshine voters” should be ashamed of themselves for any doubts, but what would you expect from such!!! The time is now...

Carpe diem...“Etymology: Latin, literally, pluck the day”,


The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 8, 2005 6:39 PM

The following hissed in response by: deignan


Not to worry. Send one e-mail to president@whitehouse.gov stating you objection to Miers, tell Gallup the same thing if they ask you and you are absolved.

Now go and sin no more.

The above hissed in response by: deignan [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 8, 2005 7:05 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


How will this be done? They have to lie. They have to lie like rugs. They have to lie like Bill Clinton. They have to sit down in their private meetings with her and come out saying that she has laid to rest all their doubts with her brilliance.

No they don't. They can tell the literal truth:

I'm not entirely comfortable with this choice, but I don't have any hard indication that she won't be able to perform her duties or that she will legislate from the bench. So I'm voting to confirm because I believe some deference is due to the president. But I sure hope that his next pick is more clearly a superior nominee with a proven track record of judicially sound judgments. I vote Aye.

Would you consider any of that a lie? I would be perfectly satisfied with that statement appended to a vote to confirm.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 8, 2005 7:46 PM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

Dafydd...*THIS* ain't no "eighteen-wheeler" or anything close to a "semi"...


The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 8, 2005 8:28 PM

The following hissed in response by: RBMN

Re: deignan at October 8, 2005 07:05 PM

How many rosaries? Hey, wait, I'm not even Catholic......

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 8, 2005 9:31 PM

The following hissed in response by: beebop

I answer your complaint with two words - Bernard Kerik. Remember him? How has his withdrawal hurt Bush, or his mentor Rudy? We still have a chance to offer a united front to Ms. Miers, who I am sure is an honorable and sincere person; please, for the long-term good of the party and your President, take yourself out of consideration. We on the right are so close to getting what we have wanted for a generation it is we who don't want to "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory." If she refuses to do so, then your arguments about losers might have some merit.

The above hissed in response by: beebop [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 9, 2005 5:07 AM

The following hissed in response by: Cave Bear


After having heard the comments from people who actually know Miers, I don't have a problem with her selection, so at this point I'm not even going to get into that.

However, to answer your question regarding how Bush 41 lost to Slick Willie, that can be summed up in two words; Ross Perot.

For all the LLL caterwauling about how GWB didn't get a "majority" of the popular vote in 2000, the fact is Clinton/Gore never got anywhere near a majority of the "popular" vote in either '92 or '96 (they got 42 and 48 percent, respectively). It was only through the vagaries of the electoral college process that they got into power (the same electoral college the Commiecrats wanted to throw out after the 2000 election when things didn't go their way).

And these vagaries kicked in because Perot siphoned off several million votes that otherwise would have gone to Bush (or Dole in '96).

Bush 41 pissed off a lot of Repub voters by breaking his no new taxes pledge, and so when Perot, partly out of hatred for Bush 41 (Bush had crossed Perot a few years before over the Vietnam POW/MIA issue, earning Bush Perot's undying enmity) and partly ego, decided to run for president in '92, he redirected a lot of disgruntled Repub voters to himself that otherwise would have gone to Bush.

And make no mistake, had Perot not been in the picture, as upset with Bush as a lot of the electorate was, given a choice between Bush and an obvious loser like Clinton, the outcome would have been a foregone conclusion. No one outside of Arkansas would even remember who Billy Jeff, let alone that commie harridan of a wife of his, was.

The above hissed in response by: Cave Bear [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 9, 2005 7:14 AM

The following hissed in response by: pbswatcher

As an early member of the Rebel Alliance let me say that the Miers nomination is bad politics. It is bad politics for the obvious reason that it demoralizes the base. The 2006 and 2008 Republican candidates will be unlikely to get the huge conservative and fundamentalist turnout that elected George Bush in 2004. But the appointment is also bad politics for the perhaps less obvious reason that it doesn't play well in the middle. To Mr. and Mrs. Average it either looks like cronyism or like we have something to hide or both. Either way it discredits conservatism with centrist voters. We will lose the long term battle if we continue to speak in code and nominate closet candidates. See The Nub

The above hissed in response by: pbswatcher [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 9, 2005 9:00 AM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

Cave Bear,

Feel free to call me "Karmi". Nice input, BTW.

i also have no problem with the Ms. Miers selection, even though i was hoping for Janice. However, the uproar is coming from more than just the former Ross Perot group, i suspect, and i will grant them their say...especially if it shows the McCain supporters that Liberalism doesn't belong in the Republican Party. Hillary and McCain looks as good as Kerry and McCain. McCain was the first Republican to 'blink', when he joined with other Liberals to stop the *NUKE*.

Bush 41 said, "read my lips", MSM and the Democrat Party used it against him in order to weaken the Republican Party's already weak left. Perot was as flip-flop as Kerry. Anyway, i wasn't Political back then...

Jimmy "The Mullah" Carter won once. Bill Clinton won twice. So-called Conservatives need to make up their mind real soon, and help to get rid of the Democrat Party whilst warning the Republican Party about what they face. i am a Libertarian, support the War that the Terrorists started years ago, so my only choice is for supporters against America's enemies.

(aka - KårmiÇåpî†ålîs†)

The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2005 6:17 PM

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