Imagine my suprise when this morning in New York Times of all places there is an op-ed from my hero, Lyn Nofziger...And adding to the fun, his advice exactly sums up warnings I've been giving to my friends in the Bush campaign...

Don't Forget About Your Conservative Base

On the surface, President Bush's re-election campaign seems to be doing those things necessary to bring about victory. The president and his surrogates have begun attacking the record and remarks of Senator John Kerry. Television advertisements are being broadcast. The organizing needed to identify and get his supporters to the polls is well under way. And fund-raising, already at a record level, continues apace.

And yet, the effort appears wanting in one key area: the president has not secured the support of that part of his conservative base still inspired by former President Ronald Reagan, which has been slipping away from him for more than a year. Early in his term many around the president, aware that his father had walked away from both the Reagan philosophy and its followers, liked to refer to the tenure of George W. Bush as "the third Reagan term."

It is difficult to do that today. True, some of the president's decisions have pleased the cultural conservatives who were a substantial part of the Reagan base. He has appointed conservative judges, signed legislation outlawing partial-birth abortions and announced his support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. His tax cuts have met with general conservative approval.

But these have not been enough to overcome the rising and increasingly vocal discontent with the president for moving leftward in efforts to woo more moderate supporters. While many of his decisions can be rationalized on their own merits, taken together they have many conservatives thinking that he is more like his father than his father's old boss.

President Bush's proposal to legitimize the presence of roughly 10 million illegal aliens, as well as what appears to be his indifference toward tightening border security, makes many conservatives irate. Also on their list are runaway deficit spending, the No Child Left Behind education act (which they see as interfering with states' rights) and the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act (which many believe violates the right to free speech). Many also are unhappy about the president's request to increase spending for the hated National Endowment for the Arts. And then there is the muttering on the right — as well as the left — about the Patriot Act, which many see as a threat to civil liberties.

The Bush administration may be moving leftward in the belief that Reagan conservatives have no place else to go. If so, it is a colossal mistake. Reagan conservatives do have someplace to go: it's called home. They can sit on their hands and not vote at all.

If the president is concerned, as he should be, about losing the Reagan right, he must take steps to reassure these voters. Sending Vice President Dick Cheney and other conservative surrogates out on the stump will help. Yet the president himself must also re-emphasize his conservative beliefs and accomplishments, and convince conservatives of the merits of proposals like his guest worker program and the need for the Patriot Act.

When the president's father took conservatives for granted, he lost. The son must prove that he has learned from his father's mistakes.


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