How Can Bush Shore Up Support Among Conservatives?

Here’s David Frum on the support Bush is currently getting from his conservative base,

“I’ve been traveling from one talk-radio station to another, listening both to the callers and the hosts, when the mikes are on and when the mikes are off. Twelve months ago, the support for President Bush among conservatives was rock-solid: I mean, Reagan 1984 solid. Today, that support is still more solid than not – but just enough softer that if I were a Bush political adviser, I’d be concerned.”

I agree completely with David Frum’s analysis and I do think it could be a real problem for Bush. A base that is unhappy doesn’t contribute as much money, doesn’t rave about you to their independent friends, and may decide to stay home on election day. So how should Bush handle it? Well, if I were in Karl Rove’s shoes, I would tell Bush to…

1) Stick to his guns on limiting non-defense spending to 1%. In fact, when Congress inevitably comes back to Bush with spending way above that level, I’d recommend that Bush use the first veto of his presidency. That would go a long way towards convincing conservatives that Bush is actually serious about controlling spending.

2) Bush’s immigration reform is a huge loser overall. Sure, it MIGHT bring in a FEW more Latinos, but if it infuriates half of your base, is it really worth it? So what I’d tell Bush to do is set up a committee to study the issue for 6 months. Then he should load it up with anti-immigration conservatives, and after the results come out in 6 months, scrap the old plan and say the reform is being made tougher, but the new plan won’t be ready until after the election. This has been the biggest misstep of Bush’s Presidency in my opinion and killing it can only help his chances.

3) I’d also advise Bush to stop being coy about gay marriage and declare that since judges are taking the decision away from state legislatures, he has no choice other than to support a Constitutional Amendment to protect the sanctity of marriage. Gay marriage is not an issue like abortion, where you have two highly motivated sides that are roughly equal in size and intensity of feeling (I actually think the pro-life side is a bit stronger, but that’s a debate for another day). Proponents of gay marriage are significantly outnumbered, are for the most part not members of Bush’s base, and this is not a big issue for most of them. So by coming out against gay marriage, Bush is throwing red meat not only to his base, but to a majority of Americans who also feel very strongly about this issue.

Now combine those 3 issues with cutting taxes and continuing the fight in the war on terrorism and I think Bush can really firm up support from his base without alienating a significant number of independents who might otherwise be inclined to vote for him.

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