GOP rank-and-file abandoning Bush? Not really.
Regardless of whether you like Bush, hate him, or could have liked him if not for (fill in the blank), this story is fairly interesting (and likely stunning to liberals and the MSM, pardon the redundancy). From USA Today:
The Washington punditocracy has proclaimed far and wide that Republicans, disenchanted with the war in Iraq, are abandoning President Bush in droves, leaving him the lamest of lame ducks. However, the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll suggests Bush might not be as wounded as he appears — at least not among his party faithful."Greatly exaggerated"? As in, the left and the MSM (pardon the redundancy) may have been...geez, dare I say it?...wrong??
The Feb. 9-11 poll puts Bush's job approval at 37%, but among people who identify themselves as Republican or leaning Republican, his approval rating is 76%.
Thus, despite bad news from Baghdad and carefully crafted hand-wringing by high-profile GOP war critics in Congress such as Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, three of four Republicans in the country are hanging in there with the president.
The poll also shows that rank-and-file Republicans have higher regard for the president than they do Republicans in Congress. They gave GOP lawmakers a 63% job-approval rating, 13 points below Bush's. And 72% of Republicans do not think Bush made a mistake sending U.S. troops to Iraq.
So if congressional Republicans figure the key to re-election in 2008 is taking a hard line against Bush on Iraq, they could be dead wrong. (Sucks for you, Hagel. - Ed.) They might lure some independents, but they risk alienating their GOP base. To win, you need solid support from your base plus independents, not independents alone.
Conventional wisdom also says the presidential ambitions of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., could be derailed by his strong support for the war. This poll, however, shows that his stance could be a plus among the base.
The latest congressional skirmish over Iraq underscores the point. In the House's non-binding vote to oppose the president's deployment of more troops to Baghdad, 17 Republicans voted with 229 Democrats to pass the measure. Four GOP representatives didn't vote. Lost was the fact that 180 Republicans stuck with Bush. By that count, Bush gets a 92% loyalty standing among House Republicans who voted. Hardly a GOP exodus.
In the Senate, Democrats fell four votes short of the 60 needed to force a vote on an identical Iraq resolution. Why? Not enough Republicans would go along. Indeed, seven GOP senators broke with the president, and nine didn't vote, yet 33 held firm. Among GOP senators who voted, that's an 83% Republican loyalty rating for Bush.
Though the president may have lost the country on the issues of the day, rumors of his demise among Republicans voters and lawmakers are greatly exaggerated.
Look, for what it's worth (and this may tick off my conservative friends), I am looking forward to Bush's departure on 1/20/09. I have stated before that when it comes to issues that I find important (tax reform, illegal immigration, federal spending, campaign finance "reform"), I was sold a bill of goods when I twice voted for him. I also feel that the administration has mismanaged the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (though obviously I don't have the doom-and-gloom despair that the left has). Having said that, I am wary of a lot of polls out there, especially those that purport to speak for the right-of-center base.