Politico has a solid report detailing how Republicans are not just avoiding speaking about the president during debates and TV interviews, and doing their best not to be seen in public with him, they are actively snubbing him, fearful of association-fallout. If that's not enough, they are now seeing the spectre of Bush rapidly becoming one of, if not, the most unpopular American presidents in history as an opportunity.
Bush's backing of the Senator Edward Kennedy endorsed immigration bill, with its infamous "shamnesty" deal, would appear to be the final straw for nearly all die-hard Republicans :
Recent polls have shown Bush's popularity -- which has long been in the tank with independents -- suffering significant erosion even among GOP base voters, largely due to a backlash over the president's stance on immigration.
The decline, according to some Republican strategists, has flashed a green light for lawmakers on Capitol Hill and presidential candidates to put distance between themselves and an unpopular president -- a politically essential maneuver for the 2008 general election that remained risky as long as Bush retained the sympathies of Republican stalwarts.
Now that those sympathies have somewhat cooled, the effects are visible: Republican House members upset about immigration policy have spoken of Bush in disparaging terms. And presidential contenders like Rudy Giuliani are striking change-the-course themes in their rhetoric, even while continuing to back Bush over the Iraq war.
The change, say GOP operatives, is the absence of fear about being perceived as something less than an ardent Bush backer. "What's the penalty now, Karl being mad at you?" Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio asked with a laugh, referring to Bush political adviser Karl Rove. "Who cares? Even his former chief strategist (Matthew Dowd) walked away from him and pissed all over him."
Two polls last week recorded a dip in Bush's standing with Republicans. In a Quinnipiac University poll, Bush's support among GOP voters fell to 61 percent, from 74 percent earlier this year. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found the same thing, with Bush GOP support dropping from 75 percent in April to 62 percent now....some Republicans have lost patience with holding their tongues. The issue of immigration "is symbolic for a lot of Republicans of the crap that (Republicans) have had to swallow," said Fabrizio, who was a strategist for 1996 GOP nominee Bob Dole. He cited the No Child Left Behind education measure and an expensive Medicare prescription drug benefit.
Senior aides to McCain, Romney and Giuliani all sounded familiar tones in explaining how they would deal with the Bush burden. It's what Democratic politicians from Republican-leaning states would say about Bill Clinton in the 1990s and what Republican politicians from Democratic-leaning states say now about Bush: We'll agree with him where we agree him and disagree with him where we disagree with him. It's hardly a ringing endorsement, but even such tepid comments may not be sufficient to escape the Bush drag in 2008.
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