1 Nov 2008

By Dee Dee Myers

Despite George W. Bush's improbable path to the presidency—he was, after all, elected not by the people but by the Supreme Court—neither he nor his chief strategist, Karl Rove, felt compelled to moderate their agendas. In fact, Rove went public with his grand ambition early and often: to use Bush's presidency to build a permanent Republican majority, not just in Washington but across the country. Give Rove credit for always thinking big.

Eight years later, however, the verdict is in. And Rove's plan has been a spectacular failure.

George W. Bush is the most unpopular president in modern times. Barely two in ten voters approve of the job he's done, and the other eight wonder how anyone could still find things about his administration to like. In better days, Bush was in high demand, as candidates across the country sought his endorsement, his energetic presence at their events, and his prodigious ability to raise money. How times have changed. According to NBC News, Bush hasn't made a single public campaign appearance with a G.O.P. candidate this cycle. Not one.

When Bush was elected, Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate. And after the events of September 11, their majorities grew. But as voters soured on the war in Iraq, the administration's endless ethical entanglements, and its abominable response to Hurricane Katrina, they gave Democrats back control of both chambers. And this year, Democrats are poised to make even bigger gains: somewhere north of 20 seats in the House and enough seats in the Senate to put them tantalizingly close to a filibuster-proof majority.

And what about the electorate more broadly? To begin with, Republican registration has fallen, and Democratic registration has grown, particularly among new voters, the ones forming impressions of the political parties that can last a lifetime. First-time voters, who are mostly between 18 and 21 years old—as well as those who haven't voted in recent years—prefer Barack Obama to John McCain by huge margins: 69 to 27 percent, according to one recent poll. These same voters prefer a Democratic controlled Congress by 66 to 31 percent.

So even if Barack Obama doesn't win—an unlikely outcome given the dynamics of this race—the Republican party will be in shreds: divided, demoralized, and long, long way from Karl Rove's erstwhile dream of a permanent governing majority.

SOURCE: Vanity Fair


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