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Impeach Bush? - By Jay Cost

Neal Boortz had an interesting blog entry today about a Bush impeachment. He thinks it will happen if the Democrats take over the House. Boortz is not the first to mention the specter of impeachment. Mort Kondracke has been talking about it as well.

As I have written time and again, the political landscape is not such that we can expect the Democrats to retake the House. The economy is too strong, there are too few open seats, and Bush is not sufficiently unpopular. Pundits on both sides tend to extrapolate from a given point in time under the assumption that things will stay as they are. So, any time Bush’s numbers go down, the talk instantly turns to a Democratic recapture of the House. Wait a month. Bush’s numbers will go back up, and then the talk will be about how the Democrats blew their chances. We have already been through one iteration of this inane process, and it looks like we’re in for another spin.

Mind you, all of this is despite the fact that seat changes in the House occur because of much more stable processes than the news cycle. God help us all if that were the case!

But this impeachment talk is interesting. I am beginning to sense the outline of the GOP’s campaign message to aggravated Republican elites. Republican elites are definitely frustrated by the Bush Administration and are probably a little less inclined to write a big check to the NRCC this year, but they will not hesitate to whip out their check books if they think John Conyers is going to get control of the Judiciary Committee.

Fear is an excellent motivator. But this tactic is more than fear, I think. The specter of impeachment is also a way to turn 2006 into 2004 – a referendum on what Bush has already accomplished. Donors might be down on Bush now, they might think he has little to offer in the next two years, but the thought of de-legitimizing what he has already accomplished will certainly inspire them.

This is not the kind of tactic that will work in campaign messages. Voters will not respond to this kind of talk – it would be impossible for the GOP to get the average voter to connect his member of Congress to the impeachment of the President. And rightly so, I might add. But this will get the people who cut the checks motivated.

My sense is also that it will help keep the would-be Republican retiree in a marginal district from retiring. I can imagine the conversation Tom Reynolds would have with a disgruntled member: “You really cannot stay on for two more years to protect what we have already accomplished?”

This kind of tactic has deep roots in American politics. If your base is only lukewarm about you, you can still count on the fact that they fear and loathe the other side. As Kerry learned in 2004, this is usually not sufficient for gaining ground. But it is fairly effective at holding ground.