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George W. Bush not a pariah in 2008

Burton K Wheeler

Itinerant Frontier Hobo
Location
garbage can
#1
On another website, I was engaged in a discussion of what would happen if W. Bush had been popular (at least as popular as 2016 Obama) at the time of the 2016 election.

A couple things would be necessary for this.

1) No Iraq disaster. This one is really tough. Basically the only way to make this happen given the administration's stance and the general public's attitude is Saddam's full and enthusiastic cooperation with U.N. weapons inspection, or more likely stepping down. Either way, we'll assume there's no U.S. troops in Iraq and that the Great War of Terror is confined to Afghanistan and security cooperation/regional stability like Djibouti and the Philippines.

2) The Great Crash being bumped back one or two financial quarters. Probably the best way to do this is delay the peak of the bubble a little bit, maybe with a slightly longer recession of 2001/2002?

Katrina would still hurt the administration badly but not be a mortal wound like it was in the wake of Iraq spiraling out of control.

So, consequences. Democrats would pick up seats in 2006 but not control of Congress. It seems very likely that a more popular Bush and stronger Republican establishment would be able to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. Remember that Bush won 44% of the Hispanic vote in 2004, and that a Republican who could pick up half of the Hispanic vote would cruise to victory even without Ohio (NM, NV, CO, and FL would probably be fairly safe R states).

We talked a bit about likely candidates and the dynamic of the election, but I'll see what people here think before sharing my ideas.

Also, the Republican President with Republican Congress in 2008 will catch the Great Recession full in the teeth, and the Democratic Tea Party of 2010, formed from a defeated and demoralized Democratic establishment, would be a hell of a thing to see.
 

Burton K Wheeler

Itinerant Frontier Hobo
Location
garbage can
#2
So, since I didn't get any responses, here's my thoughts about the 2008 election.

There will be a bit of an itch for change after eight years, just like we saw in 2016, even with a popular incumbent. The most likely Republican candidates are McCain, Romney, and Huckabee. McCain may have a lot of party support like he did in 2008, and as the "maverick" candidate, he'd address the itch for change. Also, as one of the architects of immigration amnesty and being from a fairly Hispanic state, he'll be stronger than most among Hispanic voters.

The biggest challenge to McCain will be being flanked from the right, whether from a candidate who does well with evangelicals or someone who's anti-immigration. The real tension in the Republican party at this point is between Compassionate Conservatives in the Bush vein and hate merchants. The mainstream will be on the CC bandwagon, but hate merchant primary challenges will be a real thing. Huckabee is very good at the Compassionate Conservative thing and popular among evangelicals, but I'm not sure he'll be able to mount a good challenge unless he comes out full-throated against amnesty, and I'm not sure if that's something 2008 Mike Huckabee would do. Alan Keyes is the most likely guy to make a full anti-immigrant far right challenge. If Huckabee gets off the ground, he can threaten or even beat McCain, which combined with a strong Romney campaign (not sure exactly what lane he'd run in), could make the campaign interesting. If he doesn't, McCain probably wins.

Since the RNC would be relying on winning 40-50% of the Hispanic vote to replicate the 2004 electoral map and make states we think of as safe D competitive, they'd probably pick a Hispanic VP candidate. I heard Mario Diaz-Balart suggested, and can't think of a better one, unless the Republicans are feeling really froggy and want to pick a Californian. Remember that Bush only lost CA 54-46, and that was before amnesty.

The Democrats are not in a pretty situation here. Their best chance is to replicate the 2004 map but flip Ohio, which still only gives them 271 EVs and leaves no room for error. CO, NV, VA, NM, and FL are much harder sells for them, and Bush was not far behind in WI and NH either. A couple bad polls out of California, Oregon, or New Jersey is going to make them shit themselves. Comparing alt-2008 to now, not only are Republicans competitive among Hispanic voters, they're doing much better among educated white voters. Democrats will do better among less educated white voters, but Southern states are a bit too far out of their reach without something radical.

Hillary is the presumptive nominee. Not sure if Obama runs in an election he doesn't have a great chance of winning. Waiting for 2012 or 2016 seems far wiser. A white populist challenge seems plausible, Edwards most likely. There will be the rudiments of a coalition of young left voters and union whites calling for Medicare 4 All and so on, but nothing like OTL, and certainly not enough to make a run at the nomination. Bernie wasn't particularly close in 2016 despite a lot of disaffection and a much more lefty young electorate.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Republican is calling for a health care plan on the lines of Obamacare, particularly if Romney is the front runner for some reason. This also makes the Democrats' job much harder, since there's not really an alternative to DLC-style policies within the party.

The Democrats will probably have to go all in on the Midwest just to avoid being slaughtered. I guess doubling down on Katrina and going hard for black voters will be how they try to put Florida in play. Arkansas was closer than NC or AZ in 2004, and only a hair more R than VA, so beating the drum hard in OH and IA (while protecting other Midwest states) and trying to win WV, LA, AR, and FL is their best strategy, but man, I don't envy them.
 

Thande

Brexit Out Now, Funk Soul Brother
Published by SLP
#3
I'm not sure if I agree that a less bad 2006 necessarily results in Bush being able to pass immigration reform in 2007 - it felt as though the administration had already bogged down and ran out of ideas in 2005. On the other hand, you might say that's just because of how Iraq went in OTL and you already posited a change to that.
 

Burton K Wheeler

Itinerant Frontier Hobo
Location
garbage can
#4
I'm not sure if I agree that a less bad 2006 necessarily results in Bush being able to pass immigration reform in 2007 - it felt as though the administration had already bogged down and ran out of ideas in 2005. On the other hand, you might say that's just because of how Iraq went in OTL and you already posited a change to that.
Katrina was the end of the Bush administration's ability to do anything at all. It basically brought Iraq-style problems home to an American city, which was a huge symbolic blow. Without an Iraq fiasco, Katrina isn't necessarily a mortal wound. If Bush is relatively popular within the Republican party, his own right wing won't stand against him when he tries to pass immigration reform.
 

Thande

Brexit Out Now, Funk Soul Brother
Published by SLP
#5
Katrina was the end of the Bush administration's ability to do anything at all. It basically brought Iraq-style problems home to an American city, which was a huge symbolic blow. Without an Iraq fiasco, Katrina isn't necessarily a mortal wound. If Bush is relatively popular within the Republican party, his own right wing won't stand against him when he tries to pass immigration reform.
Katrina in the absence of Iraq (as it went in OTL) is an interesting query in itself, though the butterfly fundamentalists are now banging on our door with some literature.
 

Burton K Wheeler

Itinerant Frontier Hobo
Location
garbage can
#6
Katrina in the absence of Iraq (as it went in OTL) is an interesting query in itself, though the butterfly fundamentalists are now banging on our door with some literature.
The Democrats will definitely make hay of it, and it will be key to mobilizing black voters, but it probably won't win them Congress in 2006 or completely cripple the administration.
 

Elektronaut

Those Chosen by the Planet
#7
I'm surprised at giving Bush all this automatic leeway on immigration reform, while not mentioning the likes of partial privatisation of social security, or Harriet Myers. (Who was sunk as early as she was not by the Dems, but by the Republican coalition refusing to take a 'trust me' from a weakened Bush)

There's enough to trip up a Bush with more political capital going full-bore on losing causes, domestically. (The best way to achieve this creature is just no 9/11 and then no Iraq; the administration consequently holds to its early isolationist disinterest in world affairs for the first term)

There's no reason a completely open election with no VP or sitting president shouldn't be competitive, no matter what the standing of the outgoing president.

I think Hillary is definitely running, and without Iraq Obama's whole career is changed to the extent that he may not even be in a position to run. I think the Republican field would look more varied than that weird candidacy fest of OTL. It's doubtful McCain is even a Republican in 2008 ITTL, and even if he is I don't think he'd be the frontrunner. In the rather much more national security-orientated 2008 of OTL vis a vis ITTL his candidacy nearly collapsed as it was.
 

Burton K Wheeler

Itinerant Frontier Hobo
Location
garbage can
#8
I'm surprised at giving Bush all this automatic leeway on immigration reform, while not mentioning the likes of partial privatisation of social security, or Harriet Myers. (Who was sunk as early as she was not by the Dems, but by the Republican coalition refusing to take a 'trust me' from a weakened Bush)

There's enough to trip up a Bush with more political capital going full-bore on losing causes, domestically. (The best way to achieve this creature is just no 9/11 and then no Iraq; the administration consequently holds to its early isolationist disinterest in world affairs for the first term)

There's no reason a completely open election with no VP or sitting president shouldn't be competitive, no matter what the standing of the outgoing president.

I think Hillary is definitely running, and without Iraq Obama's whole career is changed to the extent that he may not even be in a position to run. I think the Republican field would look more varied than that weird candidacy fest of OTL. It's doubtful McCain is even a Republican in 2008 ITTL, and even if he is I don't think he'd be the frontrunner. In the rather much more national security-orientated 2008 of OTL vis a vis ITTL his candidacy nearly collapsed as it was.
Good point about McCain. I was actually leaning towards Romney as the most obvious nominee, but was persuaded otherwise by the fact that the electorate will be ready for a shift and that McCain is likely to have at least tacit support from Bush. I think no Iraq war helps rather than hurts McCain, whose bellicosity was a huge liability after Iraq.

You're right that I can't see Obama running without Iraq war opposition.

And I didn't say "George Bush beloved", I was picturing something more like Bill Clinton, where despite a constant stream of scandals and disasters, personal likability and a healthy economy keeps his approval just above water.

I agree that immigration reform isn't guaranteed by any means, but if Bush doesn't get it past Congress, we're more likely to see President Hillary in 2008. A Republican party that can pass immigration reform is going to be a juggernaut for at least a few years.
 

Elektronaut

Those Chosen by the Planet
#9
I take your point about Bush ending on a more normal presidential standing, rather than 20%ish.

I'm not sure about the notion of the Republicans banking Hispanic votes, even if the 2007 plan passes. There's bound to be post-Bush pushback on that as IOTL from within the Republicans and it's possible you get a nominee in 2008 who is outright sceptical of it. I'm seeing a Tom Tancredo second or third tier 2008 campaign having a sort of Ron Paul 2012 boomlet. I also think that Bush's 2004 Hispanic vote share is complex and it doesn't just boil down to immigration concerns.

With no 9/11 it's possible, probably even likely, that McCain goes ahead with his rumoured intention to cross the floor. There's actually a fairly good chance he ends up on the ticket in either 2004 or 2008 in some permutation. Some people might scoff at this, but McCain was crazypopular cross-party in the early 2000s, indeed most of his 2000 success was founded on Democratic and independent votes in open primaries. He subsequently went outright oppositional under early Bush and co-sponsored pretty much the entire Democratic program.

In the Gore thread we had on here I flirted with the possibility of the big interventionist push taking place under a post-2008 Republican presidency post-Arab Spring; here it could take place under a President Hillary who has McCain as part of her administration.
 

Burton K Wheeler

Itinerant Frontier Hobo
Location
garbage can
#10
I figured there would be an anti-immigration backlash but I'm not sure it's enough to sink the nominee, if only because the donor base is all about immigration reform and most of the party mainstream would back it initially. I see a split in the inevitable right-wing insurgency between Huckabee and the Tancredo-esque candidate, who I suggest would probably be Alan Keyes, that allows the mainstream candidate to win.

Was McCain really likely to cross the floor? He was pretty conservative, even if that era's Democratic party could have accommodated him. Seems more likely he'd be an independent.
 

Elektronaut

Those Chosen by the Planet
#11
Assuming that it would be Mainstream Candidate versus a splintered right seems questionable to me. The 2008 nomination was very much up in the air until well into the race and I think this one would be, with more potential challengers from the mainstream, as it would look a much more winnable election than OTL.

On the contrary to the right being splintered, I think it's just as likely you get a 2016 situation with a range of wildly optimistic challengers from the establishment leading to a potential Huckabee nomination or whatever. I don't really see Keyes as being all that successful, he's not got any track record of really breaking through presidentially IOTL. He's very 'hot' on the stump and I think his appeal is very obscure for a Republican electorate.

It's possible that McCain goes independent-but-caucusing with the Dems rather than outright defects but that wouldn't prevent him from doing a Sanders presidentially and may actually add to his appeal. And yes, it's generally reckoned he was very close to defecting; a lot of his top aides did in that period like John Weaver and as I say he became pretty much, in voting terms, a Democrat during that period, co-sponsoring pretty much the entire Democratic congressional agenda. It's quite possible he reinvents himself as not only a Democrat but a fairly Liberal one.

Around the time he died I saw a lot of journalistic comment that he basically wanted to defect, go for the Democratic nomination in 2004 and go for a round two against Bush, and given how mercurial and ego-driven McCain was I think that's quite plausible. He may actually win it because as I say he was genuinely popular in the early 2000s as an outsider-type - though that's hard to remember nowadays. Ultimately what John McCain wanted was John McCain in the presidency.
 
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Burton K Wheeler

Itinerant Frontier Hobo
Location
garbage can
#12
Assuming that it would be Mainstream Candidate versus a splintered right seems questionable to me. The 2008 nomination was very much up in the air until well into the race and I think this one would be, with more potential challengers from the mainstream, as it would look a much more winnable election than OTL.

On the contrary to the right being splintered, I think it's just as likely you get a 2016 situation with a range of wildly optimistic challengers from the establishment leading to a potential Huckabee nomination or whatever. I don't really see Keyes as being all that successful, he's not got any track record of really breaking through presidentially IOTL. He's very 'hot' on the stump and I think his appeal is very obscure for a Republican electorate.

It's possible that McCain goes independent-but-caucusing with the Dems rather than outright defects but that wouldn't prevent him from doing a Sanders presidentially and may actually add to his appeal. And yes, it's generally reckoned he was very close to defecting; a lot of his top aides did in that period like John Weaver and as I say he became pretty much, in voting terms, a Democrat during that period, co-sponsoring pretty much the entire Democratic congressional agenda. It's quite possible he reinvents himself as not only a Democrat but a fairly Liberal one.

Around the time he died I saw a lot of journalistic comment that he basically wanted to defect, go for the Democratic nomination in 2004 and go for a round two against Bush, and given how mercurial and ego-driven McCain was I think that's quite plausible. He may actually win it because as I say he was genuinely popular in the early 2000s as an outsider-type - though that's hard to remember nowadays. Ultimately what John McCain wanted was John McCain in the presidency.
Probably correct overall as to the state of the 2008 Republican primary. A lot of unknowns and possible directions to attack the mainstream from.

I'm not convinced that McCain bails from the Republican Party. If he doesn't, he's the guy to beat. Even if he does, I guess he could do a Sanders and run in their primary anyway.
 

Elektronaut

Those Chosen by the Planet
#13
This is a longterm bugbear of mine from post-1900, but I'm really not sure why McCain is the man to beat in any alternate nomination cycle. He was a fairly marginal figure within the Republicans and his campaign nearly collapsed in the invisible primary in 2007, and he then very nearly lost the nomination to Romney once the actual voting got under way, and almost certainly would have done if Huckabee had edged him in South Carolina.

He's really not this unstoppable nomination force that the oort cloud of opinion in alternate history has established him as.
 

Burton K Wheeler

Itinerant Frontier Hobo
Location
garbage can
#14
This is a longterm bugbear of mine from post-1900, but I'm really not sure why McCain is the man to beat in any alternate nomination cycle. He was a fairly marginal figure within the Republicans and his campaign nearly collapsed in the invisible primary in 2007, and he then very nearly lost the nomination to Romney once the actual voting got under way, and almost certainly would have done if Huckabee had edged him in South Carolina.

He's really not this unstoppable nomination force that the oort cloud of opinion in alternate history has established him as.
Oh, no doubt OTL's 2008 exposed him as an incredibly weak campaigner. I see the zeitgeist of this alternate 2008 favoring him, but again, I posited Romney as the guy who'd win initially, and I could be persuaded that it would be Mike Huckabee.
 

Elektronaut

Those Chosen by the Planet
#15
Romney should be in a better position than McCain ITTL. (Assuming McCain is even a Republican) IOTL McCain had the benefit of his general election potential and his Kerry-like status as a backer of the surge etc. In less desperate circumstances, more establishmentarians will go with a more predictable Romney-type party regular than gamble on the flakiness of McCain.

It doesn't have to be Romney of course. If the Democrats win the Senate in 2002/Trent Lott never goes full Good Ole Boy on Strom Thurmond then Bill Frist is potentially viable, and I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting.
 
#16
Katrina was the end of the Bush administration's ability to do anything at all. It basically brought Iraq-style problems home to an American city, which was a huge symbolic blow. Without an Iraq fiasco, Katrina isn't necessarily a mortal wound. If Bush is relatively popular within the Republican party, his own right wing won't stand against him when he tries to pass immigration reform.
I'm not so sure about that. FAIR has a lot of money to burn, and they're not going to let something like Doble-Veh Bush push them around. A more credible Bush allows the GOP to court Latino voters 2000s Texas style, but the GOP is going to be torn on the issue. Bush being stronger merely prolongs the conflict.