Why Is Bush Losing Conservative Support?

John Podhoretz is looking at the strength of the economy and noting that things are taking a turn for the better in Iraq. So, why is Bush losing conservative support?

“(T)he president is losing support from conservatives and Republicans. There are all sorts of theories about why this is true, like how they don’t like his spending plans and don’t like his immigration policies. Fine, but he had the same immigration plan in 2004 and spent like a sailor in his first term and still had over 90 percent support during that election year.

So here’s a theory: Republicans and conservatives have grown weary of defending Bush. They’ve been fighting and fighting and fighting for years, and they see no letup in the hostility toward him or in the energy and determination of his critics. Faced with that implacable opposition, they’ve grown not disaffected but disheartened.

They thought they were on a winning team. Now they’re not so sure, and they’re feeling let down, the way passionate sports fans do when their guys stumble and fall in the second half of the season. In this case, though, the economic data and other markers of progress suggest that the second half isn’t actually going badly at all.”

I think there’s something to the idea that “Republicans and conservatives have grown weary of defending Bush.” I mean, at a certain point, you’ve got to ask why in the world you’re ripping your guts out to stick up for an administration that won’t even defend itself?

For whatever reason, in his second term, it has seemed like Bush has just been going through the motions. Maybe he has gotten complacent after winning reelection, maybe he’s just tired, but you get the impression his heart just isn’t in it. He makes the most boneheaded political moves (See Harriet Miers and the Port Deal), the Democrats call him every name in the book and he doesn’t fight back, he doesn’t seem to pay attention to political reality or what his base wants — he’s just moping along. It’s like watching a heavyweight boxing match when the guy you’re rooting for hasn’t done anything for 5 rounds but kept his hands up and held the other guy. At some point you stop cheering until he starts punching back!

That being said, that’s just one problem for Bush. The other problem is issue related. Yes, he’s probably lost a few conservatives because of Harriet Miers, the Katrina response, the Dubai Port Deal, gas prices and how the war in Iraq has gone. But, to tell you the truth, I think immigration and deficit spending have been the two biggest sucking chest wounds with the base.

Of course, Jpod correctly noted that Bush had the same immigration and spending positions in his first term, but the war on terrorism was the big issue then. Now, illegal immigration and deficit spending are front and center and Bush is paying an enormous price for his stubbornness.

Any other politician would have changed course by now, but Bush would rather see his approval rating drop down into the low thirties rather than bend an inch on these big issues that are near and dear to the heart of his base. Yet, even though Bush is rapidly losing Republican support, he doesn’t appear to be fazed by it all. He’s not making any big effort to convince conservatives who disagree with him that’s he right. He’s also not changing his positions in an attempt to placate unhappy conservatives. It’s just “like it or lump it” and that’s not good enough anymore.

Unless Bush figures that out, I hate to say it, but he’s may get to see what life is like with approval numbers in the twenties. That’s not something any Republican should want to see, but it’s up to Bush at this point. The ball’s in his court and either he’s going to have to make some substantial changes in the way he’s doing business or the next three years are going to be miserable for him and the rest of the GOP.

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