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Trouble in the Base?

Some posters on National Review's blog are almost despairing that "base" conservatives won't be given proper attention at the Republican National Convention in New York -- the primetime speakers will all be moderates like Schwarzenegger, Pataki and Giuliani (more here).

This reminds me of some excesses I read on the liberal activist blog Daily Kos when the rumors that Gephardt would be Kerry's VP candidate were at their thickest. Some folks reacted to Kos's rather nuaunced commentary by sounding like they were ready to jump off a bridge. (Mainly these were people who hadn't really forgiven Kerry for beating Dean.)

It'll be interesting to watch this campaign to see which side gets in more trouble with their base while reaching out to a tiny pool of "undecided", nominally centrist voters. (I'd have to assume that the undecided vote is largely apathetic more than centrist.) The race is a dead heat and is likely to continue to be for some time, pivoting on cultural and economic issues barring a massive change in the War on Terrorism. I still think Bush has the edge, but neither he or Kerry have much of a margin of error if either of them hemmorhage base supporters.

That said, how big are these bases that straight-facedly compare Bush to Hitler or write books titled If It's Not Close They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It? Yeah, there are few undecideds, but there aren't that many Rush Limbaughs and Michael Moores in the general electorate, are there?


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I don't know if you recall the '92 GOP convention. I do. Vividly. Members of the "base" (e.g., Pat Buchanan) got prime-time speaking slots, and what the nation saw scared the hell out of it ... enough, at least, to tip a bunch of undecideds toward Clinton (or Perot, which was just as good from the Dem standpoint).

I'm sure that's what's up this time around. You put John Ashcroft or Tom DeLay or Rick Santorum on the podium in prime time, you frighten the horses. But even Schwarzenegger could backfire, given his relationship with Enron, unless he manages to get out in front of the state's efforts to recover $9B in overcharges by Labor Day. And I'm pretty sure the Cal. atty general isn't going to let that happen; this is the guy who said *in 2001*, and repeated it yesterday for the Wall Street Journal, that Kenny Boy belonged in an 8-by-10 cell with a cellmate who called him "Honey."