The 'Bush Factor'

President George Bush waves as he departs Buckley Air force Base, in Aurora, Colo., Saturday, Nov. 4, 2006. (AP Photo/Bill Ross)
AP
With just two days to go in Campaign '06 the political spotlight is on a most conspicuous non-candidate, President Bush. Even though 2004 was the last time his name will ever appear on a ballot, the midterm elections of 2006 is Mr. Bush's last campaign.

He is running as the head of his party and his most formidable opponent seems to be himself. The unpopular president is the dominant factor in this election. The "Bush factor," if you will.

"Sure, the election is a referendum on the president," CBS News political consultant Stuart Rothenberg told CBS News White House correspondent Jim Axelrod. "The Republican candidates can say it's not about President Bush. It's not about the war in Iraq. It's not about the post hurricane Katrina cleanup or gas prices, it's just about me and my opponent. They've been trying to do that, but so far, they just haven't been successful enough."

Tuesday will provide the final measure of the "Bush factor," but there are other ways to consider its impact. For instance, just one Republican candidate for congress uses the president in his ads and even then, Utah congressional candidate LaVar Christensen just uses Bush's picture.

"I think the only people who don't realize the present policies in Iraq aren't working are the president and his small coterie of advisors," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY.), head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said. "And so I think even the republican candidates know to distance themselves from the President. You look at some of the ads of the Republicans and you think they would be Democrats."

Democrats are attacking the president in ads in more than 75 congressional races. They're linking the president to their Republican opponents. Yet the president and his advisors are about the only Republicans left who don't believe they will lose at least one house of Congress.

"I think republicans are rallying right now and are a little bit tired of Democrats and the media reports of our demise and being told we're going to lose on Tuesday," Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said. "And I think that has created in a lot of races a rally where rank and file republicans are saying we're a little tired of that and we may send a message ourselves."

The Republicans may have the last laugh come Wednesday. But they are looking ever more isolated as the "Bush factor" looks ever more real.

"Unless all the polls are wrong — we're not just talking about public polls; the private polls, Republican polls, Democratic — unless all the polls are wrong, this president is proving to be a liability," Rothenberg said. "This midterm is about him and it's the main reason the Republicans are having trouble and are going to lose seats."