- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 16, 2004

The liberal media has been hard at work trying to persuade Americans that President Bush is in trouble with his conservative base of voters. In a front-page story, The Washington Post asserts that “conservatives have become unusually restive” and that “conservatives and former administration officials say the White House policy apparatus is moribund.” A Knight-Ridder dispatch reports that dissatisfaction with Mr. Bush could risk “the prospect that some conservatives might sit out what’s expected to be another close election.” This is the frequent line in the New York Times and other newspapers and on television programs.

But the president’s enthusiastic reception at Thursday’s 40th anniversary gala of the American Conservative Union (ACU) exposes the danger of conservative abandonment of Mr. Bush as a myth.

The dinner was sponsored by such conservative organizations as the National Rifle Association, the Family Research Council, Eagle Forum, the Heritage Foundation and Americans for Tax Reform. The crowd included a who’s who of the organized conservatives. If there was widespread grumbling in Mr. Bush’s base, this would have been a risky venue for the president. But the mood in the ballroom was jubilant; his speech was frequently interrupted by cheers and standing ovations. Mr. Bush was as well received as Ronald Reagan at conservative rallies in the 1980s. That’s a promising comparison that reflects a recent poll by the Pew Research Center that pegs Mr. Bush’s support among conservative voters at 95 percent.

Those opposed to Mr. Bush see and report troubles ahead for the president everywhere they look. They ignore polls that show that Mr. Bush’s support is stronger in many so-called red states than it was when he carried them four years ago. “The conservative movement has become the dominant intellectual force in American politics,” the president said. “On the fundamental issues of our times, conservatives have been right.”

Mr. Bush listed his priorities as tax cuts, spending discipline (good news, because the lack of such discipline has, in fact, disturbed many conservatives), tort reform, private health and retirement accounts, faith-based initiatives, school choice and a stronger national defense to fight terrorism. In short, the president showed why conservatives will support him in November: Because he is one of them.

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