While it's not a 100% certainty, I'm surprised that the following quote from Bush's news conference yesterday hasn't gotten more play:
Q: Now that the 2004 presidential campaign has unofficially begun, can you tell us whether Vice President Cheney will be your running mate again? Or will you instead choose someone who might harbor greater presidential ambitions to perhaps succeed you one day?
BUSH: Well, first of all, I'm still recovering from the '02 elections, and we got plenty of time to deal with this issue.
But should I decide to run, Vice President Cheney will be my running mate. He's done an excellent job. I appreciate his advice. I appreciate his counsel. I appreciate his friendship. He is a superb vice president, and there's no reason for me to change.
I happened to be flipping around on the radio, and since almost all the music currently out stinks I ended up on C-SPAN listenting to this exchange. If possible, the President's delivery was even more adamant than the above quote suggests.
Now, there's still achance that Cheney would withdraw (or be pushed aside) for claimed health reasons. But I think the above quote shows that President Bush certainly isn't thinking that way. And since it's his decision, I'd say smart money right now is on Cheney staying on as VP for another 4 years, should Bush get re-elected.
While the result seems dramatic right now, and the common pundit tendency to extrapolate for a generation from a single data point is making it out to be groundbreaking, I’m less convinced.
First, I think it was less a vote for Bush than it was a vote against the Democrats. As others have said, it’s hard to beat something with nothing, and the Democrats had nothing this election. They had no ideas except “grave concern” about Republican proposals, and you’re not going to win many elections when the best you can come up with is pointing at your opponent and saying “At least I’m not on of THEM!”
Josh Marshall is convinced that long term demographic trends foretell a future golden age of Democratic dominance, but demography means nothing if there’s no ideology there to back it up. The Democrats are badly in need of some leadership and ideas, and it’s not clear right now where it will come from. Daschle and Gephardt combined have roughly the charisma of a sea cucumber, and neither one of them has had an original idea in their life. The Clinton crowd was voted down by electors, and they weren’t that big on ideas either. While his moderation was important, I think Clinton’s political success was based as much on luck and charisma as it was on his politics. There are some things that can be picked up, but his gifts were individual, making him no better a model than Reagan, another president with phenomenal personal charisma. The main liberal groups that seems to be energized and have new ideas are the anti-globalization protesters and the Greens, and their ideas are really, really bad. And Gore? They might as well nominate Mondale to run again as Gore. I have some ideas, but no-one’s called to ask my advice.
So are the Democrats doomed? Not necessarily. Politics cycles quickly, and the Democratic position now looks no worse than the Republican position in 1992. And that seemed to work out pretty well for them, ultimately.
On the Republican side, I do think that a general comfort level with Republicans running the war effort helped them. I’m not sure it was the deciding issue, but it probably contributed. But it would be reaching too far to say this shows a real groundswell of support for a war with Iraq. And I don’t think the election indicates any clear support for their domestic agenda. The people weren’t voting in a referendum on privatizing social security or abolishing the estate tax. And as Vodkapundit noted, overeager pursuit of grand conservative policy objectives could seriously hurt the party. If the Republicans wanted to do one thing to help the Democratic party and re-energize them, it’s hard to think what would be more effective than bringing abortion back into political play.
But that might not be a serious possibility, since on the practical side, the effects are really limited. The democrats still have plenty of votes even with defections to filibuster in the Senate. So Bush needs to play smart, since right now he will, in voter’s eyes, have great responsibility for action without commensurate power to push legislation through. It will help with judges, but that’s a fringe issue for most, anyway.
So, while the talking heads in the media, before and after the election, anointed it “one of the most important of our lifetimes,” neither side should get to happy or despondant. After all, in just two more years it will be time once again for one of the most important elections of our lifetimes.
On a last peevish note, the CW seems to be that Bush made a huge gamble with his political capital by campaigning for Republican candidates. Really? If they had lost, would his position have been any worse than if he had not campaigned and they had lost? Is there any voter anywhere in the country who was wavering but has now lessened his support for Bush because he went out stumping? This whole argument seems idiotic to me. His campaigning was important and it helped the Republicans out a lot. But it was not a risk or a gamble—it was a no-lose proposition.
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