January 30, 2004

Bush Slips--Among Republicans

You are not alone.

The Nation: In Swanzey, for instance, 37 percent of
GOP primary voters rejected Bush. In nearby Surry,
almost 29 percent of the people who took Republican
ballots voted against the Republican president, while
a number of other towns across the region saw
anti-Bush votes of more than 20 percent in the GOP

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Bush Slips--Among Republicans
01/30/2004 @ 08:01am
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The record-high turnout in the New Hampshire
Democratic primary -- 219,787 Granite State voters
took Democratic ballots Tuesday, shattering the
previous record of 170,000 in 1992 -- is being read as
a signal that voters in one New England state, and
most likely elsewhere, are enthusiastic about the
prospect of picking a challenger for George W. Bush.
And the turnout in the Democratic primary is not even
the best indicator of the anti-Bush fervor in New
Hampshire, a state that in 2000 gave four critical
electoral votes to the man who secured the presidency
by a razor-thin Electoral College margin of 271-267.

Many New Hampshire primary participants decided to
skip the formalities and simply vote against the
president in Tuesday's Republican primary. Thousands
of these Bush-bashing Republicans went so far as to
write in the names of Democratic presidential

Under New Hampshire law, only Democrats and
independents were permitted to participate in
Tuesday's Democratic presidential primary. That meant
that Republicans who wanted to register their
opposition to Bush had to do so in their own party's
primary. A remarkable number of them did just that.

One in seven Republican primary voters cast ballots
for candidates other than Bush, holding the president
to just 85 percent of the 62,927 ballots cast. In some
parts of the state, such as southwest New Hampshire's
Monadnock Region, a historic bastion of moderate
Republicanism, Bush did even worse. In Swanzey, for
instance, 37 percent of GOP primary voters rejected
Bush. In nearby Surry, almost 29 percent of the people
who took Republican ballots voted against the
Republican president, while a number of other towns
across the region saw anti-Bush votes of more than 20
percent in the GOP primary.

Few of the anti-Bush votes went to the 13 unknown
Republicans whose names appeared on GOP ballots along
with the president's. Instead, top Democratic
contenders reaped write-in votes.

US Senator John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, who won the
Democratic primary, came in second to Bush in the
Republican contest, winning 3,009 votes. Kerry's name
was written in on almost 5 percent of all GOP ballots.
Who were these Republican renegades for Kerry? People
like 61-year-old retired teacher David Anderson. A
Vietnam veteran, Anderson told New Hampshire's Concord
Monitor that he wrote in Kerry's name because the
senator, also a veteran, understands the folly of
carrying on a failed war. "I feel a commander, the
president of the United States, ought to be a
veteran," explained Anderson, who says his top
priority is getting US troops out of Iraq.

Kerry wasn't the only Democrat who appealed to
Republicans. In third place on the Republican side of
the ledger was former Vermont Governor Howard Dean,
who won 1,888 votes, more than 3 percent of the GOP
total. Retired General Wesley Clark secured 1,467
Republican votes, while almost 2,000 additional
Republican primary votes were cast for North Carolina
Senator John Edwards, Connecticut Senator Joe
Lieberman, Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich and the
Rev. Al Sharpton.

In all, 8,279 primary voters wrote in the names of
Democratic challengers to Bush on their Republican

That's a significant number. In the 2000 general
election, Bush beat Democrat Al Gore in New Hampshire
by just 7,212 votes. Had Gore won New Hampshire, he
would have become president, regardless of how the
disputed Florida recount was resolved.

The prospect that Republicans and Republican-leaning
independent voters in New Hampshire, and nationally,
might be developing doubts about whether Bush should
be reelected is the ultimate nightmare for the Bush
political team. White House political czar Karl Rove
begins his calculations with an assumption that
Republicans will be united in their support of the
president's reelection. But the president's
deficit-heavy fiscal policies, his support for
free-trade initiatives that have undermined the
country's manufacturing sector, and growing doubts
about this Administration's military adventurism
abroad appear to have irked not just Democrats and
independents, but also a growing number of

The Bush White House is taking this slippage
seriously. US Senator John McCain, R-Arizona, who beat
Bush in the 2000 New Hampshire Republican primary, was
dispatched to the Granite State before Tuesday's
primary, in order to pump up the president's
prospects, as were Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney
and New York Governor George Pataki. And Bush,
himself, jetted into the state on Thursday,
effectively acknowledging that state Republican Party
chair Jane Millerick was right when she said, "What we
have recognized is that New Hampshire is a swing

But can the president pull independent-minded
Republicans, and Republican- minded independents, back
to him? That task could prove to be tougher than the
job of finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

No one doubts that Democrats in New Hampshire, and
elsewhere, are angry with the president. Indeed, if
there was one message that has come through loud and
clear during the first stages of the race for the
Democratic nomination, it was that Democrats in the
first-in-the-nation primary state -- like their peers
in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa --
have proven to be less interested in ideological
distinctions between Democratic contenders than they
are in picking a candidate who will beat Bush.

Exit polls conducted on Tuesday in New Hampshire did
not merely sample the opinions of Democrats. They also
questioned independent voters, who make up almost 40
percent of the New Hampshire electorate. A Democratic
primary exit poll conducted for Associated Press and
various television networks found that nine in ten
independents were worried about the direction of the
US economy. Eight in ten told the pollsters that some
or all of the tax cuts pushed by the Bush
administration should be canceled. Forty percent of
the independents questioned in the poll said they were
angry with Bush, while another 40 percent said they
were simply dissatisfied with the president.

Bush aides are quick to dismiss the polling numbers.

But how will they dismiss the results of the New
Hampshire Republican primary, where every seventh
voter cast a ballot for anyone-but-Bush?

Posted by richard at January 30, 2004 01:09 PM