The Washington Post has a piece on how conservatives are abandoning the President over issues such as spending and immigration. The President’s precipitous slide in the polls is largely a function of this massive erosion in conservative confidence in his leadership:
The Gallup polling organization recorded a 13-percentage-point drop in Republican support for Bush in the past couple of weeks. These usually reliable voters are telling pollsters and lawmakers they are fed up with what they see as out-of-control spending by Washington and, more generally, an abandonment of core conservative principles.
There are also significant pockets of conservatives turning on Bush and Congress over their failure to tighten immigration laws, restrict same-sex marriage, and put an end to the Iraq war and the rash of political scandals, according to lawmakers and pollsters.
Bush won two presidential elections by pursuing a political and governing model that was predicated on winning and sustaining the loyal backing of social, economic and foreign policy conservatives. The strategy was based on the belief that conservatives, who are often more politically active than the general public, could be inspired to vote in larger numbers and would serve as a reliable foundation for his presidency. The theory, as explained by Bush strategists, is that the president would enjoy a floor below which his support would never fall.
It is now apparent that this floor has weakened dramatically — and collapsed in places.
It’s not surprising. Despite the hackneyed arguments from the left, Bush’s support from conservatives has always been conditional on his willingness to support conservative principles. The idea that those who supported the war or other policies of the Administration did so out of loyalty rather than support for an enduring set of principles was always a convenient fiction for some – and Bush’s fall is not because a bunch of deluded Bush “apologists” have come to their sense, but because the President’s actions have betrayed those enduring principles.
Bush is probably close to the lowest point he can go in the polls – but even that isn’t certain. The lack of leadership coming out of the White House these days has left the Republican Party in a sad state, and Congress isn’t doing any better – in fact, Congress’ approval ratings are lower than the President’s.
Someone’s going to have to show some real leadership – demand enforcement of our border security, demand cuts in earmarks and other forms of pork-barrel spending, and demand more leadership on the Iraq issue. The Republicans are unable, and the Democrats are too focused on Bush to care about much else. People are sick and tired of the horrendous dysfunction of our political culture, and they’re right to feel that way. 2006 could well be a bloodbath, but when the inevitable result will be more partisan bullsh*t, it’s hard to get excited about that potential.
Unless the President starts getting in front of the issues instead of getting steamrolled by them and starts shoring up his conservative base on immigration and spending, Bush’s slide will only continue. How low can Bush go? If he doesn’t shape up on key conservative issues, we may yet find out.