Republicans Abandon President on Sinking Ship

Two weeks….

These are the two weeks that candidates relive for the next two years.

These are the two weeks in which results are sealed, in which late deciders decide, the two weeks of last chances and final hopes, the two weeks for any final surprises, the two weeks to turn it around, the two weeks to bring it home, the two weeks that all those years of work, the millions and hundreds of millions of dollars, the thousands of hours of work, all come down to.

What can happen in these last two weeks?

Everything and nothing. Close elections can turn into landslides, as Reagan’s defeat of Carter did, and projected victories (President Gore’s) into close elections (President Bush). Trends can be cemented or turned around.

George Bush’s next two years depend on these two weeks.

What can he do?

For starters, he can hope his team stays with him. Things don’t get better when the team falls apart. Even so, right now, on the Republican side, that seems like a lot to hope for.

Conservatives have already started to behave like losers, and bad losers at that. They’re playing the blame game on the front page of national newspapers. Nothing could be less attractive. Figuring out who is going to take the blame for the defeat is an activity best left until after the election.

Off-the-record, Republicans are leaking like sieves, tanking each other. Bad behavior. Act like a loser at this point and you’ll be one. Losing like this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Start pointing the fingers of blame before the votes are even cast and you can be sure that there will be plenty of blame to go around once they are.

I should be the last person in the world to feel sorry for George Bush, but the behavior of some Republicans is starting to make even me feel some sympathy. Have these guys ever heard of sticking with the team to the finish? A little loyalty? Is it only adulterers and alleged racists who want the president to come campaign for them? (That is precisely who the president campaigned for this week, and it made him – and them – look weak).

It’s not simply political blame but policy distance that Republicans are seeking. Even the president’s most loyal supporters on the war are beginning to question “the course.”

Kaye Bailey Hutchison, the senator from the president’s home state of Texas, who’s been staunch up to now, was talking this week about the “chaos” in Iraq and talking up the possibility of a partition plan. With October fatalities heading to a two year high, you really can’t blame her, but in politics, everything is timing, and even she might be able to wait two weeks before deserting the ship, lest it sink precipitously.

And sinking is what the Republican ship appears to be doing. By seeking their distance, Republicans, perhaps unwittingly, only affirm the public sense that this election is indeed a referendum on the president and his policies, and that the president’s own party is no longer behind him. That’s my definition of a sinking ship. And what does that make the people jumping??

Who wants to vote for a coward? If you disagree with the president, you might as well vote for the other party. Republicans are not going to save themselves in the last two weeks by abandoning the president and blaming each other. If that’s the strategy, forget it.

I’ve been wagering steak dinners at the Palm with my Republican friends – Sean Hannity, Rich Galen, Judge Andrew Napolitano – on whether Democrats will take control of Congress. I’ve lost enough elections in my day that I’m not celebrating yet. But watching Republicans behave like losers in these closing days, I’m beginning to get hungry. It’s starting to look like I could be eating a slew of steak dinners at the Palm.

Any more takers?? Bill O’Reilly: wanna bet?

For complete election coverage, visit You Decide 2006,'s special election section.

Click here to link to Susan's new book, "Soulless."

Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission.

Estrich's books include the just published "Soulless," "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System," "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders," "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women" and "Sex & Power," currently a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the FOX News Channel.

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