Monday, November 06, 2006


President Bush loves life on the road. He has said numerous times that he would much rather be talking to a hall full of small-town Americans than hanging in Washington with "all the ties".

Hundreds of thousands of Ameicans have stomped and cheered and hollered their approval of just about anything Bush has had to say during the hundreds of speeches he's made since he began his quest for the White House in 1999.

Through the 2002 and 2004 elections, Republican senators across the US would do just about anything to get Bush to come to their home towns and work his magic.

But that magic, whether real or illusionary, or manufactured, has well and truly faded.

The United States president is delivering a couple of speeches a day as he tours his favourite states, still selling the 'War On Iraq' and ripping into the Democrats for being "soft" on national security, but Republican senators are staying away from the Bush gatherings.

Bush is bad news now, and a remarkable number of senators, including California's Arnold Schwarzenegger, have refused the open-ended offers to have Bush come and give a speech and hang out.

If this is a sign of how the rest of the Bush presidency is going to play out at home, it's going to be extremely grim. For America, and for Bush.

From the UK Independent :

Unlike four years ago, when Mr Bush campaigned furiously for Republicans across the country, his own unpopularity as a result of the war in Iraq has led many candidates to make clear they would rather campaign without him.

Mr Bush's name will not be on the ballot on 7 November, but when the US votes next Tuesday the election will be overwhelmingly a referendum on his handling of a war which has led to the death of more than 2,800 US troops and perhaps as many as 655,000 Iraqis.

Polls suggest more than a third of voters intend to use their vote to signify their opposition to the President, whose personal approval rating stands at about 37 per cent. Other polls show only 38 per cent still believe the invasion was a good idea.

To see Mr Bush deliver a speech is not to witness a thing of beauty. He is not an elegant or well-timed speaker. His delivery is often clumsy, his jokes often strained. In unscripted situations he sometimes gets lost and struggles, lost momentarily, before finding his way back to a familiar sound-bite. But despite this, he is oddly effective, hammering home one or two key themes with a simplistic drumbeat repetition.

Yet however well Mr Bush goes down with the "base", his chief adviser Karl Rove knows Mr Bush is not the vote-winner he was in 2002. As a result, until this last week, the President had been kept to the margins of the campaign and used mainly for his fundraising abilities in front of small, select groups of well-heeled party supporters.

"He is not an asset in most places and for most seats," said Stephen Hess, professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University. "Nevertheless the troops on the ground think it could be helpful. He is base hitting and it's always been Karl Rove's strategy to get out the base."

Four years ago, Mr Bush's situation could barely have been more different.

In 2002, with his ratings still high after the September 11 attacks and with the war in Iraq decided upon but not yet launched, Mr Bush was in great demand by candidates.

In the final five days of that campaign he stopped in 17 cities across the country and the Republicans' success in holding the House and capturing of the Senate was largely attributed to the President's decision to insert himself in the centre of the campaign.

How times have changed.

Disillusioned Americans Set To Turn Their Backs On Bush