Stanley Greenberg on Bush’s problem with what’s ostensibly his base:

The problem for Republicans is rooted in their base. Greenberg’s analysis shows that Rove’s base strategy is in trouble–President Bush is falling roughly 4 points short of his 2000 vote in nearly every group in the Republican loyalist world. If Bush was depending on the white evangelicals, white rural and Deep South voters, and older blue-collar men, he’s got a problem to address. He will have to play an even stronger cultural politics to stay in the game. These changes are illustrated by trends among rural voters, one of the core Republican groups discussed in The Two Americas. These rural voters, referred to as “Country Folk,” represent 21 percent of the electorate. In 2000, 63 percent of Country Folk backed Bush. Yet today, only 58 percent support him and only 51 percent want to continue in Bush’s direction; 47 percent want to go in a “significantly different direction.”

Andrew Sullivan, himself a somewhat-disillusioned (if unrepentant) Bush supporter, conjectures why:

My own hunch is that these voters do not like a massive increase in government spending, a huge jump in public debt, and a post-war policy in Iraq that seemed blindsided by reality. But here’s my other belief, and it’s about Abu Ghraib. The images from that prison shamed America in deep and inchoate ways. Traditional conservative patriots in particular were appalled. The awful truth is that this president presided over one of the most damaging blows to American prestige and self-understanding in recent history. He may not have been directly responsible; but it was on his watch. And he ensured that no one high up in his administration took the fall for the horror. I think traditional patriots were saddened, shocked and horrified by the abuse and, to a lesser extent, the Bush administration’s self-protective response to it. For me, at least, even though I am fully committed to the war, the images from Abu Ghraib are indelibly part of my memories of the Bush administration. I can move on in my head; but my conscience will be forever troubled.

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