Memo: To Karl Rove
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Sending a Message
The national elections tomorrow for Senate and House are said to be on a knife edge, Karl, with both Senate and House races a toss-up. If it happens that the numbers do not change, of course nothing changes much in terms of policy direction. If it happens that Democrats do much better than the prognosticators are prognosticating, I think you should do a serious post-election poll to find out how many voters took an Iraq war into their calculations. President Bush continues to have a very high rating in the polls for his personal performance, but so far he has been doing well in holding back the Dogs of War at the Pentagon. Iím still a Bush supporter because I see that short leash in his hand. You know better than almost anyone how distressed the Republican Warriors were with 9-11, in the sense that it interrupted their timetable on regime change in Baghdad. They were really upset when Saddam Hussein last month announced an open-door policy to UN weapons inspectors, another kink in their imperial war plans. The boom on Wall street in October was of course a celebration of Baghdadís decision, worth a thousand points on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Over the course of October, you must also have noticed a steady slide in the optimistic forecasts of the GOP political operatives about taking back control of the U.S. Senate. All of the garden variety political commentators, who are almost never right from first to last, look at the polls that show the electorate concerned first and foremost about the economy. Thatís what must be causing the drift to Democrats, they say. Yet a breakdown of that polling indicates a fairly narrow margin between those who say the Democrats are best at dealing with the economy and those who think the Republicans are superior. Both are in the low 40's, with the rest undecided. If you look down the list, though, you will find that Iraq is at the top of the list for 9% of the voters. I have not seen a breakdown of those Americans who, like Paul Wolfowitz, want to send 250,000 troops to Iraq as soon as possible and those who do not. But Iíll wager that 99.99% of those who put Iraq at the top of the list do NOT want a war. The other 0.01% are Wolfie and his pals.
As a political operative yourself, Karl, you have to see my point. There is a huge chunk of the American people who will either get themselves to the polls and vote AGAINST Republicans who are beating the tom toms with the Pentagon chicken hawks... or who normally vote Republican and this time will stay home. That 9% is not evenly divided. And it is not passive. If all the other hot issues facing the national electorate are a toss-up Ė prescription drugs?, Harvey Pitt? homeland security? Ė the antiwar voters do have more weight in deciding the outcome than you seem to have reckoned upon.
Of course I may be wrong. I have been wrong many, many times in my own prognostications. But I did worry in 2000 when you decided to have Governor George W. Bush spend his last weekend campaigning with Paul Wolfowitz at his side. All I heard that last weekend was talk of war and the need to build a national missile defense system. On Friday he was ahead by three points, and when the Supreme Court finally decided, the President became President without the popular vote. Remember? Of course, if things go badly this week, there will be plenty of excuses offered up by Bill Kristol and the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Iím already hearing the voters of South Dakota may vote for the Democratic dove instead of the Republican hawk because they want the senior Senator, Tom Daschle, to remain the Majority Leader of the Senate. Ha ha ha ha. Can you really imagine a Dakotan driving to the polls, determined to vote Democratic to keep Daschle at the top of the heap, when he/she really would like to get rid of Harvey Pitt? What do I hear this weekend? The front page of the NYTimes tells me the Pentagon is already flying PRACTICE bombing missions over Iraq, with live targets!! Do you think I could possibly cast a vote for a Republican of any sort after I have read that?
The reason I direct all this to you, Karl, is that it is your job as the Presidentís top political operative to interpret the wishes of the electorate so he might have a shot at re-election, first, and then perhaps a happy slot in history. Do not kid yourself and the Commander-in-Chief if that 9% disappoint you in your expectations for Senate control. I think there should be Cabinet changes, but if I were you, I would start at the Pentagon.