Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Elections and polls, more bad news

The Bush implosion of the Republican Party continues. The bellwether race in yesterday's special election in the 50th Congressional district in California is very tight. At the moment the Republican has a slight lead. The Republians have poured millions into this one race and brought in massive numbers of campaign workers from around the country to try to save what ought to be a safe seat. The main news is not, and has never been, whether the Republicans would win or lose the seat --- though a loss would be very bad news indeed. The issue is that they should win the seat by a comfortable margin. That this comfortable margin has vanished is evidence of the problems the Republicans are having.

Some hard line Republicans will try to assure themselves that this is particular to the one district. The former Republican congressman, Randy Cunningham, one of the leaders of the moralistic wing of the GOP, is now in prison for taking $2.4 million in bribes. You could tell he's a "moral" sort of guy since he wanted lots of money before selling his votes.

In Bible-belt hearthland state Alabama the Christianist wing of the Republicans were disappointed. Former judge Roy Moore lost his bid to become the party's candidate for governor. Moore was a judge who had a huge monument to the Ten Commandments illegally erected in his courthouse. When told this was illegal and asked to remove it he refused, citing claims that America is a Christian nation --- something that would suprise the Founders. The court house was then surrounded by fanatical fundamentalists shreiking and wailing and praying "in tonques" waiting for a miracle to prevent the removal of the monument. No miracle. Not only was the monument removed but Judge Moore was thrown out of his seat by a panel of judges who said his disregard for the law may him unfit to sit on the bench. Moore, and his theocratic followers, had hoped that incident would launch his political career. Instead the incumbent governor easily won about two-thirds of the votes while Moore got about one-third.

Pundits on the Right and the Left are also saying that the Bush campaign to scapegoat gays isn't going to have the desired results. Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a Republican, opposes the effort and says he is not worried. He says it may have a minor effect on his campaign. The conservative group Club for Growth says that social conservatives are not the problem for Bush. The head of the group, Pat Toomey, says: "The problem I see is with economic conservatives who see out-of-control spending, huge deficits and that Republicans can't make the tax cuts permenent. The problem is on a different field."

But the New York Times reports that the Republicans are bushing a ban on gay marriage, laws regulating flag burning and abortion because they "speaks to the party's convictions and [carry] concrete political benefits." In reality they do not speak to the party's convictions they speak to the fundamentalists who have grabbed the party's gonads and are squeezing as hard as they can.

Still with all these diversions and sops thrown to fundamentalist fanatics the Republicans are losing ground almost daily. Bush once had the approval of over 80% of the public but since then he has lost almost three quarters of that support. Less than 30% approve of his job as president. Democratic support disappeared very quickly, then the support of independent voters vanished. On the Republican side support had stayed high but that was deceptive. The numbers of voters identifying themselves as Republicans was dropping quickly. So Bush's support only remained high within the shrinking Republican base because those supporters who deserted him ceased calling themselves Republicans.

Now the Pew Research Center for the People and Press, a major polling group, says that even within the dwindling party base itself Bush is lossing support at unprecedented levels. Republicans who once were the heart of the party, those members not affiliated with the Religious Right, have deserted Bush in droves. As recently as December 81% of these moderate Republicans had supported Bush. But their support has steadily eroded and is now down to 56%. Even conservative Republicans are unhappy. In December 93% were backing the president while now 78% do. If Bush had to run for eleciton under this climate it would be the worst loss for any incumbent president in recent history.

One of the more extreme theocrats in the Senate, Rick Santorum, admitted in a speech to the Senate that even many Republicans are not happy with the marriage ban. "It is just an issue that people just feel uncomfortable talking about. It's something that maybe in some respects they feel like, why do we even have to? Why is this even an issue?" Santorum himself is in trouble in his bid to win re-election. Currently polls show his Democratic rival, Bob Casey, Jr., with a 13 point lead. Even worse news for Santorum is that one-third of Republican voters in Pennsylvania no longer support his campaign.

A Rasmussen poll now shows that voters who identify as Democrats outnumber those who identify as Republicans. Last month 34% of voters saw themselves as Republicans, now 32.7% do. But voters leaving their Republican identity behind are not becoming Democrats. They now identify as independent voters. Self-identified independent voters now sit at 31%, the highest they have polled since Rasmussen started tracking this trend in January 2004. Democrats can win a landslide victory this election if they move to the center. Unfortunately, so far, there seems to be the inpression that if Republican extremism is turning off voters then Demcratic left-wing extremism will attract them. Unless the Democrats move fast there is going to be increased support for a new centre party in the United States.