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Jewish World Review Feb. 28, 2000 /22 Adar I, 5760

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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Bush's silver
lining in McMichigan -- HAS GEORGE BUSH sabotaged his chances in the general election by moving too far to the right in order to placate conservative voters in South Carolina? Yes, say the monolithic voices of the media elite, and McCain's victory in Michigan proves it. They're wrong.

According to the McMedia, McCain is the only Republican who has any chance of building a broad enough coalition to defeat Al Gore in November.

Liberals have been saying since before the ascension of Ronald Reagan that conservative Republican presidential candidates are unelectable. Has political reality finally caught up with liberal rhetoric? In a word, no.

What, then, is the significance of McCain's McMichigan victory? Is there any silver lining in those results for Governor Bush? Definitely.

Republican voters chose Bush by a resounding three-to-one margin. Since a large number of the remaining Republican primaries are closed, Bush enjoys a substantial advantage. McCain is the one who has gone too far. He'll never be able to redeem himself with the GOP base, without which he has nary a chance in either the primary or the general.

So what, say you McEnthusiasts. Even if Bush captures the nomination it will be a Pyrrhic victory because he will not be able credibly to resurrect his compassionate-conservative theme to attract swing voters.

There are at least two glaring fallacies in this McTheory. One is that Bush has substantially changed his policy positions since the McCain surge. The other is that Bush's relative difficulty with Democrats and Independents against McCain will translate into his inability to compete with Gore for those voters.

Even many Republicans have fallen for the notion that Bush has changed his message to shore up his conservative support. But that's not really the case. He's definitely sharpened his rhetoric and also appears more conservative by contrast with the Republican-bashing McCain. But he hasn't changed on the issues. Let's take a look:

  • Taxes: Back in the early fall he promised to unveil a tax plan that would be more ambitious than that of the congressional Republicans. Later in the year, he delivered on his promise with a supply-side, across-the-board tax cut plan.

  • Abortion: He's been pro-life from the beginning, allowing for exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother, which is to the left of the party's platform. He has also continued to refuse, despite pressure from the right, including me, to apply a pro-life litmus test for his judicial appointments and running mate.

  • Foreign policy: He has not backed off one iota from any of the fundamental principles laid out in his foreign policy speech last year, including his promise to treat Red China as a competitor rather than as a partner.

  • Education: He hasn't retracted a syllable of his education plan, despite criticism from some conservatives that it may cede too little federal control to the states.

My point here is not that Bush is not conservative enough, but that he hasn't opportunistically altered his message to fend off McCain's attack from the left.

The other misconception is that Bush will not be able to attract swing voters against Al Gore in the general election. Analysts have fallen into the trap of assuming that the Democrats and independents now voting for McCain are the same ones Bush will be courting in the general election. More likely, many of these are rent-a-voters on a mission to weaken Bush through a protracted primary contest. Don't forget that Bush has demonstrated a remarkable ability to appeal to minorities and women in Texas. Since he hasn't truly changed on the issues, he should be able to attract those voters nationally.

And, it will be far easier for Bush to compete against Al Gore for moderate votes than against the more moderate McCain. If anyone should be worried, it's Gore. Bill Bradley has forced him so far to the left in their Santa Claus look-alike debates, that he'll have a much tougher time appealing to moderates than Bush.

Bush has reinvigorated the GOP base by refusing to shift left in the heat of battle. He must ignore his counterfeit benefactors in the McPress and stay the course through the general election.

JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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02/22/00: Bush or four more of Clinton-Gore?
02/16/00: Substance trumps process
02/14/00: The campaign finance reform mirage
02/09/00: President McCain: End of the GOP as we know it?
02/07/00: From New Hampshire to South Carolina
02/02/00: SDI must fly
01/31/00: Veep gores Bradley
01/26/00: The issues gap
01/24/00: GOP: Exit, stage left
01/20/00: Nationalizing congressional elections
01/18/00: Do voters really prefer straight talk?
01/12/00: Media's McCain efforts may backfire
01/10/00: Conservative racism myth
01/05/00: Just one more year of Clintonian politics
01/03/00: McMedia?
12/27/99: Al Gore: Bullish on government
12/22/99: Bradley's full-court press
12/20/99: Bush: Rendering unto Caesar
12/15/99: Beltway media bias
12/13/99: White House ambulance chasing
12/08/99: Clinton's labor pains
12/06/99:The lust for power
12/01/99: In defense of liberty
11/29/99: Are Republicans obsolete?
11/24/99: Say you're sorry, Mr. President
11/22/99: Architects of victory
11/17/99: Trump's tax on freedom
11/15/99: GOP caves again
11/10/99: Triangulation and 'The Third Way'
11/08/99: Sticks and stones
11/03/99: Keyes vs. media lapdogs
11/01/99: Signs of the times
10/27/99: The false charge of isolationism
10/25/99: A matter of freedom
10/20/99: Clinton's mini-meltdown
10/18/99: Senate GOP shows statesmanship
10/13/99: Senate must reject nuclear treaty
10/11/99: Bush bites feeding hand
10/06/99: Jesse accidentally opens door for Pat
10/04/99: Clinton and his media enablers
09/29/99: Reagan: Big-tent conservatism
09/27/99: The Clinton/Gore taint?
09/22/99: Have gun (tragedy), will travel
09/20/99: Hillary's blunders and bloopers
09/15/99: GOP must remain conservative
09/13/99:Time for Bush to take charge, please
09/10/99: Bush's education plan: Dubya confounds again
09/07/99: Pat, savior or spoiler?
09/02/99: Character doesn't matter?
08/30/99: Should we judge?
08/25/99: Dubyah's drug question: Not a hill to die on
08/23/99: Should Dubyah start buying soap ... for all that mud?
08/16/99: 'W' stands for 'winner'
08/11/99: The truth about tax cuts
08/09/99: Hillary: Threading the needle
08/04/99: What would you do?
08/02/99: No appeasement for China
07/30/99: Hate Crimes Bill: Cynical Symbolism
07/26/99: Itís the 'moderates', stupid
07/21/99: JFK Jr. and Diana: the pain of privilege
07/19/99: Smith, Bush and the GOP
07/14/99: GOP must be a party of ideas
07/12/99: Gore's gender gap
07/08/99: Clintonís faustian bargain: our justice
07/06/99: The key to Bush's $36 million
06/30/99: Gore: a soda in every fountain
06/28/99: 'Sacred wall' or religious barrier?
06/23/99: GOP must lead in foreign policy
06/21/99: Crumbs of compassion
06/16/99: Compassionate conservatism: face-lift or body transplant?
06/10/99: Victory in Kosovo? Now What?