Rove Sees Bush as 2008 Asset
Karl Rove is swimming against the currents of conventional wisdom, warning candidates that running against President Bush is a losing strategy, Joe Curl reports:
The president had been pummeled ever since Democrats retook control of Congress in January, but he has pushed ahead with his second-term agenda on issues ranging from opposing federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, pushing for peace in the Middle East and establishing security in Iraq. Some in his own party broke with him on the war, but as the “surge” takes hold and the president regains his footing — and with rising poll numbers, to boot — Mr. Bush looms large for Republican contenders next November.
Republican strategist Scott Reed says that what the “White House critics fondly referred to as Bush’s stubbornness” is beginning to pay dividends on a host of issues that voters care about, from the war in Iraq to a scientific breakthrough that shows embryos don’t need to be destroyed for stem-cell research.
Hovering at a dismal 29 percent approval rating just as Gen. David H. Petraeus, ground commander in Iraq, testified before Congress on the surge in September, Mr. Bush has since jumped to 36 percent in a poll late last month.
Mr. Rove said the president just received the best possible gift from the House’s most vocal war critic, Rep. John P. Murtha, who just returned from a trip to Iraq and stated flatly: “The surge is working.”
“I think that the [Iraq war] critics are going to be seen as small-minded and petty and wrong, and the president is going to be seen increasingly as having made a tough but correct decision about adding additional troops,” he said.
It’s a bold prediction, indeed.
He’s right, I think, that running against Bush is a poor strategy. Bush isn’t on the ballot and the choice is among those who are. It’s also true that there has been some good news and that Bush’s approval ratings are moving in a positive direction.
It goes far too far, however, to say that Bush is going to be an asset for the GOP. While things in Iraq are going much better than they were, they’re still not going well. Osama bin Laden is still at large and al Qaeda and the Taliban are both making a comeback. The president has accomplished little domestically.
It would be foolish for any of the Republican candidates to run on a platform of “as close as you can get to a third Bush term.”