Republicans bet the farm on Security

Several pieces over the weekend preview the fall Republican strategy - argue that electing Democrats will weaken the war on terror, making us less safe.  To do that, the Times reports today, they will have to give up a passing the pending immigration bill.  Not a big suprize, given that the House Rs believe attacking Democrats for being soft on immigration - meaning that they support the bill passed by the Senate and supported by President Bush - will be one of their key issues this fall. 

To me the collapse of the immigration bill is a clear and potent sign of why the Rs are in trouble this fall.  An unprecendented bi-partisan bill is created, bringing together labor, business, immigration groups and folks like NDN.  It is supported by Bush.  It passes the Senate.  The President gives his only prime time speech this year promoting it.  It is a good bill, going a long way to solving the vexing immigration problem.  But of course these guys, who have shown themselves to be so good at politics and so bad at governing, can't pass it.  And so today we learn that is won't pass.  No big suprize here. 

But what comes next is millions of dollars of ads saying that Democrats weakness on border issues is creating more terrorists.  We saw it in an NRSC ad for Lincoln Chafee against a fellow Republican two weeks ago.  So it is coming.  But Democrats have nothing to fear.  We have a plan - the Senate bill, supported by McCain and Bush - that solves the immigration problem.  They have "seal the border."  Ours is a plan that will work, there's is a press conference.  We can win this battle this fall, with the American people, on tv ads. 

But this security first and only strategy leaves exposed what is a major Republican weakness this fall - the economy.  The Post has a very good story on this today, and a new CNN poll released last night shows now that the economy is the number one issue of voters today.  From the Post piece:

"At first glance, the economy's role in this year's midterm elections is a puzzle. Economic growth and unemployment are at levels that in past years would have been a clear political asset for the party in power.

But one layer down in the statistics, the answer is more clear. Flat wages and rising debt nationally have converged to leave millions of middle-class households feeling acutely vulnerable to bumps in their financial planning. The most visible of these are rising energy prices and a softening housing market.

A less obvious but powerful variable is the interest paid by people carrying credit card debt or mortgages whose monthly payments vary with interest rates. People buffeted by these trends have given rise to a new and volatile voting block.

"People like this are making a large ripple across the body politic," said Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies. When added to the growing opposition to the war in Iraq, he said, worry about this economic crunch "is creating a political environment that is not that friendly to the party in power."

Every election cycle has its own important set of undecided, or swing, voters. In 2000, it was the "soccer moms," targeted by both parties with appeals based on education and quality-of-life concerns. In 2004, it was the security moms, normally Democratic-trending women whose concerns about terrorism helped give Bush his margin of victory.

This year could mark the emergence of what might be called mortgage moms -- voters whose sense of well-being is freighted with anxiety about their families' financial squeeze. Democrats are betting that this factor is strong enough to trump security or cultural values issues."

The rise of the economy as an issue should come as no suprize to NDNers.  Our globalization project has been banging on this theme for 18 months.  And we've been working hard, for over a year, to pass meaningful immigration reform.  No matter how salient the security issues are this fall, for a governing party to ignore the current economic plight of average Americans, and let a good and sensible immigration reform bill collapse, says more about why they may lose power than the epic failure of their foreign policy.