Bush wins four more
It was not a landslide, or a re-alignment, or even a seismic shock. But it was decisive, and it is impossible to read President Bush’s re-election with larger Republican majorities in both houses of Congress as anything other than the clearest confirmation yet that this is a center-right country – divided yes, but with an undisputed majority united behind his leadership.Surveys of voters leaving the polls found that a majority believed the national economy was not so good, that tax cuts have done nothing to help it and that the war in Iraq has jeopardized national security. But fully one-fifth of voters said they cared most about “moral values” – as many as cared about terrorism and the economy – and 8 in 10 of them chose Bush.In other words, while Bush remains a polarizing figure on both coasts and in big cities, he has proven himself a galvanizing one in the broad geographic and political center of the country. He increased his share of the vote among women, Hispanics, older voters and even city dwellers significantly from 2000, made slight gains among Catholics and Jews and turned what was then a 500,000 popular vote defeat into a 3.6 million popular vote victory on Tuesday.The president’s chief strategist, Matthew Dowd, released a memo Wednesday noting that Bush has now become the first Republican president to be reelected with majorities in the House and Senate since Calvin Coolidge in 1924, and the first president of either party since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 to be re-elected while gaining seats in both houses.
“I think that there’s a great deal of evidence that the American people support this president,” said Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition leader who was southeast regional coordinator of the Bush campaign this year. “There is a wide swath of voters, not just in the south but in the heartland of the country, that no longer feels that the Democratic Party speaks for them or their values, and that is a serious impediment to the Democrats in a campaign like we have just been through.”From state capitals to Capitol Hill, the Republicans made gains on Tuesday. Eleven state ballot initiatives to ban gay marriage passed easily, even in laid-back, live-and-let-live Oregon, and apparently inspired turnout that helped Bush. William Bennett, the former education secretary who has crusaded for moral values, noted in National Review Online that it was Ohio, which may well have lost more jobs under Bush than any other state, that gave him his electoral vote victory.The former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who led the charge that produced a Republican Congress 10 years ago this month, said, “I think all of the major themes of this president fit very much into the concept of a center-right governing majority.” If you think about John Kerry goose-hunter, and John Kerry altar boy and John Kerry defender of America, he understood at some pretty profound level that you could not move out of the center-right and win.”Gingrich added of Kerry: “Look, I think he did the best he could. I think he actually over-performed his natural vote by four or five percentage points. You have to give him some real credit.”
All along, Bush’s political guru Karl Rove had argued that if Bush could turn out millions of conservatives and evangelical Christians who stayed home four years ago, he could win, aided also by population shifts that added electoral votes to the Sunbelt states in which the president ran strong both times.Vice President Dick Cheney, as he introduced Bush at a victory rally in Washington Wednesday afternoon, said that his boss had already had “a consequential presidency,” and that voters had been inspired by his “clear agenda.” The biggest questions now may be about just what parts of that agenda Bush will choose to pursue, and just how many fights he will take on with either his liberal opponents or his conservative supporters.Will Bush move to create private investment accounts for Social Security, a move that would follow through on an idea he first broached four years ago, gratify free-market ideologues but discomfit fiscal conservatives worried about how he would pay for them and practical politicians fearful of simply touching such a hot issue. Will he pick confirmation fights over anti-abortion judges, or press for a Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage? Or neither? Or both?Wednesday, Bush sounded a conciliatory note. “A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation,” he said. ” We have one country, one constitution, and one future that binds us.” Cheney’s daughter Mary and her longtime partner, Heather Poe, appeared together at the victory rally.
The power of second-term presidents tends to dissipate quickly and Bush’s will be limited at the outset because he will still be five Republican votes shy of the 60 needed in the Senate to stop a Democratic filibuster. Sen. Arlen Specter, the moderate Pennsylvania Republican expected to head the judiciary committee, warned Bush Wednesday against nominating judges “who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade.”James A. Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, noted that for all the Republican gains, “the other story is that the nation is deadlocked, especially in the Senate, over what the most important issues are and how we deal with them.”But Grover R. Norquist, president of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, said that the Republican Party was no longer what it was 25 or 30 years ago, “a collection of people running on their own.” Instead, he said, “there is a coherent vision, and to a large extent voters can tell that Republicans are not going to raise their taxes, are for tort reform, are for free trade.” He said that without the drag of the war in Iraq, Bush would probably have rolled up a bigger majority.
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