As the Bush administration gears up for midterm elections, President Bush and Vice President Cheney are raising large sums of campaign money for GOP candidates, but mostly at closed-door fundraisers. The White House has dusted off a political strategy that won two consecutive elections.
If Republicans have a poor showing this fall, it will hurt President Bush — both in his final term, and his legacy. The landscape is less hospitable for Mr. Bush this year, compared with 2002 and 2004.
Opposition to the war in Iraq is rampant, and Mr. Bush's poll numbers are a real liability for some of his allies. Perhaps the only thing that's the same for Republicans this year is their playbook. They're talking about the Sept. 11 attacks, and trying to portray Democrats as too weak to lead in a dangerous world.
Polls show that fewer Americans are buying the president's argument this year that the war in Iraq is part of the campaign against terrorism. But a key to the president's political strategy has been to manage expectations.
For instance, this year, if Republicans lose seats, but still control the House and Senate, they'll likely claim victory. And senior Bush adviser Karl Rove would be able to say he's maintaining a Republican majority in the country — however slight.