You know the Republicans are in trouble when your trail guide, a life long Republican, says he "gonna have to vote Democrat" in the next election! Even says: “Hilliary would make a good president.”
It was a glorious day in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in northern New Mexico. Our horses took us through lush, stream fed lower forests into the alpine evergreens and finally above the tree line, 12, 6000 feet above sea level. A herd of big horn sheep licked salt off the rocky cliffs below.
On the ride down our trail guide Tom, a Texan, former rancher, single father, and life long Republican asked me about the economy. Rule number one on trail rides is don’t insult your guide. Your life is literally in their hands. So I tried to keep the discussion short and non- controversial.
But Tom, wanted to talk about politics.
He had taken George W, Bush quail hunting once. He was going hunting with some law enforcement friends, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who called and asked if “He’d mind if the Governor came along?”
"Not if he brings his own beer.” Tom replied.
So Tom took the future president hunting and reports that he was a really, down to earth nice guy. That’s why he voted for him twice.
Seeing where this was going, and not wanting to end up there, I tried to joke:
” Good thing you didn’t take Chaney. ’”Yeah, I’d a been dead.” laughed Tom.
But then Tom turned serious, thinking out loud: “Bush is OK on the moral issues, but he has shipped our jobs overseas and made a mess of the economy.”
“Yeah,” I responded, “in Wisconsin we’ve lost 25,000 jobs cause of trade deals like NAFTA.”
Tom was on a roll. And it wasn’t the mountain air since we were now descending: "I was doing a lot better before he got in. But things are a lot worse now - healthcare costs are out of control. And college education……..” He left that thought unfinished, letting the reality speak for itself.
“And our foreign policy, Tom continued. “I don’t like dictators as much as the next guy. But he has made a mess over there. Young men are dying… for nothing! The place is a mess. I’ve always voted Republican. But I’m thinking….You know my grandparents would turn over in their grave, but I’m gonna have to vote Democrat this next time around.”
“Your grandparents always voted Republican,” I asked.” Everyone where I’m from in Texas votes Republican,” he said. “But…not this time.”
I damn near fell out of my saddle!
But this is what the numbers are telling us. Across the country people are dissatisfied. President Bush’s disapproval rating stands at a record 71%. It has exceeded 58% all year and hasn’t dropped below 50% for over two years. He has been unpopular longer than anyone in the Oval office in half a century.
People are upset about healthcare, education, housing and gasoline costs; the economy-the loss of family supporting jobs and mortgage foreclosures. They are worried about collapsing bridges, New Orleans and Americans dying in far away Iraq. They want to see something done.
2008 is the Democrats election to lose.
If they speak straight to folks like Tom they’ll win.
If they play fast and loose with hedge fund financiers, free traders, health insurance and drug companies, and Iraq war hawks and profiteers, they will lose folks like Tom and the election.