- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2006

Republicans who run away from President Bush will only help Democrats win control of Congress in November, top Republican pollster and strategist Ed Goeas said yesterday.

Republicans would be making the same mistake as Democrats in 1994, when they ran from President Clinton, worsening the anti-incumbent atmosphere and resulting in Democrats losing both the House and the Senate.

Mr. Goeas based his conclusions on results of the bipartisan George Washington University Battleground 2006 Poll released at the National Press Club.

Democratic pollster and top strategist Celinda Lake said, “Republicans will not benefit from any presidential coattails. In fact, many Republicans are distancing themselves from Bush.”

She noted that although 86 percent of Republicans rate Mr. Bush positively, only 67 percent of conservatives do so.

She said her party can help itself by “nationalizing the upcoming elections” — making them a referendum on Mr. Bush and Republican “stewardship of the nation and by using ‘change’ as a wedge issue.”

Both pollsters agreed that Arizona Sen. John McCain, a maverick Republican liked by Democrats, is the only national office holder in either party with an approval rating of more than 60 percent among Republicans, Democrats and independent voters.

To counter the Democrats’ nationalizing strategy, Republicans in Congress should make Mr. McCain the “face of the Republican Party’s efforts to reform” legislative and lobbying practices, Mr. Goeas said in interpreting the results of the Feb. 12-15 poll of 1,000 likely voters. It was conducted by Miss Lake and Mr. Goeas.

Many Republicans in both chambers of Congress, however, oppose Mr. McCain’s proposals for sweeping reforms, regarding them as showboating tactics.

The poll found that Mr. McCain has a positive image among 68 percent of Republicans, 67 percent of independents, 60 percent of Democrats, 64 percent of conservatives, 67 percent of liberals and 54 percent of moderates.

Miss Lake said Democrats face their own problems, not the least of which is turnout.

“While 64 percent of white conservative Christians say they are extremely likely to vote, only 49 percent of African-Americans and 47 percent of Hispanic voters are that sure,” she said. Religious conservatives form a reliable part of the Republican voter base, and black and Hispanic voters are a major part of the Democratic base.

The poll also reveals a clear anti-Washington mood. Four percent said Washington lawmakers put voters ahead of partisan politics, and 92 percent said lawmakers put partisan politics first.

And a majority said a “willingness to find practical, workable solutions” is more important in a Washington lawmaker than “strength of values and convictions,” by a margin of 58 percent to 38 percent.

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