Watch CBSN Live

Governing From The Base

Weekly commentary by CBS Evening News chief Washington correspondent and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.

A funny thing happened to George Bush on his way to the Presidency: He became a base-based politician.

When he first ran for governor, no one would have mistaken him for a liberal Democrat, but he believed the key to winning was to get the moderate and independent vote.

It worked, and once elected he became one of the most bi-partisan governors in Texas history and one of the most popular.

In 2000 he began his run for the Presidency the same way — convinced that people cared more about common sense and results than party ideology.

Then he was blindsided in the New Hampshire primary by John McCain. His advisors panicked. Moderation may have worked in Texas, but the only way to win now, they said, was to move right and appeal to the party's so-called base.

And so he went to the extremely conservative Bob Jones University (where his father had once been denounced as an agent of the Devil) and reminded people that he — and he alone — was the candidate of the Right.

From that day on, he campaigned from the right, won, governed from the right and was re-elected.

But playing to just one set of voters can take even a President only so far.

The base-based strategy could not overcome an unpopular war, scandal and government ineptitude.

Where does he go from here? If he hopes to accomplish anything over the next two years, I believe he must return to his roots — not the buttering up of the so-called Republican base, but his deeper roots, the belief that you can accomplish more by bringing people together than by driving wedges between them.

It wouldn't hurt if the Democrats gave that some thought as well.

E-mail Face the Nation.

By Bob Schieffer

View CBS News In