George W. Bush — Not Totally Toxic

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At least, the Republican National Committee doesn’t think so. The RNC blast-emailed a solicitation to party members across the country a little while ago in the form of a letter from the incumbent president and nominal head of the party. “In just over 13 months, Americans go to the polls to elect the next President,” Bush writes in his “Dear Republican” letter. “We have an important mission: to keep the White House in 2008, and retake the U.S. House and Senate.”

Mission impossible? Bush doesn’t think so, although he acknowledges that fulfillment won’t come easy:

Next year, Chairman Mike Duncan and the Republican National Committee (RNC) will have the job of organizing our Party’s national grassroots campaign effort.

Mike and I both are counting on your support to help lead the Republican Party to sweeping victories in the 2008 elections.

We know it is grassroots activists like you who put up the yard signs, knock on the doors, make the phone calls and do what’s necessary to win and elect a Republican president and Congress.

And it is people like you who give generously to ensure our candidates have the resources needed to run effective campaigns and win. That is why I hope you will make a special online gift of $1,000, $500, $250, $100, $50, or $25 to keep the RNC’s 2008 election programs moving forward.

Winning the 2008 elections will be the toughest test our Party has faced since we won the White House and added to our numbers in both houses of Congress in 2004.

The toughest test since 2004? Have Bush and Duncan and the good people over at the RNC erased 2006 from their memory banks? Wasn’t last year a teeny bit tougher a test for Republicans than 2004? Or is victory tougher than defeat? I’m putting a call in to RNC HQ to get the answers.*

In the meantime, the RNC (and Bush) set a pretty basic GOP strategy for the 08 cycle: run on the twin themes of national defense and the economy and all will turn out well. “You can win most elections based upon strong national defense and good economic policy,” the President writes, which is an axiom that’s hard to refute. The problem for Republicans: in a year in which the war in Iraq will probably continue to be a drag on the party and in which there is at least a reasonable chance of an economic downturn brought on by the housing slump, running on national defense and the economy won’t be easy. In fact, it might be tough.

UPDATE: Danny Diaz, RNC spokesman, explains the elision of 2006 this way: “It clearly speaks to the stakes of the upcoming election and the significance of maintaining control of the White House and electing Republicans up and down the ticket.” In other words (mine), for Republicans, the stakes of 2008 are higher than they were in 2006 because they stand to lose control of the White House as well as remain in the minority in the House and Senate. That makes sense. Diaz would never say this, but the GOP’s chances of retaining the White House, while daunting, are better than its chances of winning back either house of Congress.