December 31, 2005
November Is Ten Months Away
wisdom seems to be that the Democrats will put in a good showing
in the midterm elections next November. Maybe so. But with 10
months to go in the election cycle, President Bush, who has been
slammed in the polls for the past year, is mounting an impressive
comeback. The only question now is whether or not he can continue
along this recovery path -- and I wouldn't bet against him.
speeches and proactive press conferences, Bush closed the year
in campaign style, shifting from commander in chief to salesman
in chief in order to merchandise and market his successes. Even
while acknowledging some miscues, he answered his critics by hammering
hard on an Iraq strategy for victory -- not retreat.
On the domestic front, he at last highlighted the strength of
the U.S. economy, which is undoubtedly the single most underrated
good-news story of 2005.
data show this strategy to be working -- Bush's favorables have
moved up about 10 points to nearly 50 percent in only a few weeks.
A string of positive economic reports bolstered the president's
case at home, while a third successful election in Iraq underscored
the potential for optimism there.
meanwhile, are helping Bush and the GOP by reminding the electorate
that they remain soft and untrustworthy on national security and
the terror war, while policy-less and obstructionist on budget
and tax issues.
the Murtha-Pelosi obsession with immediate troop withdrawal in
Iraq is playing poorly nationwide -- even splitting the Democrats
internally. Worse, the Democrats' ACLU-type response to reports
of National Security Agency eavesdropping without court warrants
is a huge mistake. The latest Rasmussen poll reports that 64 percent
of respondents believe the NSA should be allowed to tap cell phones
and e-mails in order to intercept communications between suspected
foreign and domestic terrorists.
word here? National security. The key thought here? Carping Dems
are not to be trusted. The key political issue here? There's a
good reason why the United States has not been attacked since
9-11: Tough security policies by the entire U.S. government, at
home and abroad, designed and administered by the Bush administration,
are in place.
to build on their recent polling successes, as well as their policy
gains, the Bushies need to articulate a few basic points and then
package them into a national message. In other words, they must
nationalize the midterm elections of 2006, just as they did in
2002 (when they discussed terror war security) and just as the
Gingrich Republicans did in 1994 (when smaller government, lower
taxes and no socialized healthcare took center stage).
the course in Iraq (where victory in terms of democratization
and reconstruction is increasingly possible), withdrawing troops
as the generals believe prudent and maintaining tough security
measures to guard the homeland (by way of the Patriot Act, etc.)
is the right wartime prescription. The Democrats will only be
able to counter with more negativism and defeatism.
On the economy,
Bush's pro-growth strategy should stress large-scale budget cuts
(such as, for the first time, real cuts in pork-barrel spending,
including corporate welfare) and permanent tax relief to sustain
economic growth. The Democrats have no budget-cutting policy whatsoever,
nor are they capable of developing one, while on tax cuts they
have no answer except the tiresome mantra of tax hikes for the
Against Government Waste calls 2005 a record year for pork. The
group identified 13,997 pork projects in the fiscal 2005 appropriations
bills, costing taxpayers $27.3 billion, an increase of 31 percent
over fiscal 2004. These are sickening facts. The president must
work overtime to erase them in 2006 and truly produce a taxpayer
embraces such a Rep. Mike Pence approach, championed by the House
Republican Study Committee, of shifting big-government conservatism
back to limited-government conservatism, he will rejuvenate the
GOP base. Moving government out of the way of the free-enterprise
capitalist economy, while strengthening after-tax rewards for
work and investment, is the best prescription for long-run growth.
Clear progress on budget-deficit reduction will also impress independent
voters, as will lower unemployment and continued job creation.
war and prosperity, Bush can craft a national message that will
bring a GOP win, or at least a break-even result, in the 2006
midterms. There's also immigration, where Bush must stand his
ground by strengthening border security law enforcement without
harming the legitimate needs of American businesses. He must also
stand firm on the confirmation of Judge Alito to the Supreme Court,
and on protecting the unborn and traditional marriage. Aggressive
campaigning on all these themes will do the trick.
President Bush must rally the nation to his big-picture themes
of victory, optimism, growth and progress. Democrats are pessimistic,
negative and defeatist, so the contrast couldn't be clearer. If
the president produces the policy merchandise, and makes the national
sale, 2006 could be a very surprising political year, where once
again the conventional wisdom is proven wrong.
Kudlow is a former Reagan economic advisor, a syndicated columnist,
and the co-host of CNBC's Kudlow
& Company. Visit
his blog, Kudlow's Money