Bob Novak writes: During George W. Bush’s keynote address to the 40th anniversary black-tie banquet of the American Conservative Union (ACU) last week, diners rose repeatedly to applaud the president’s remarks. But one man kept his seat through the 40-minute oration. It was no liberal interloper but conservative stalwart Donald Devine. As ACU vice chairman, Devine was privileged to be part of a pre-dinner head-table reception with President Bush. However, Devine chose not to shake hands with the president. Furthermore, he is one of about 20 percent of Republicans that polls classify as not committed to voting for Bush’s re-election.
The conventional wisdom portrays the latest Zogby Poll’s 81 percent of Republican voters committed to Bush as reflecting extraordinary loyalty to the president by the GOP base. Actually, when nearly one out of five Republicans cannot flatly say they support Bush, that could spell defeat in a closely contested election. When Don Devine is among those one out of five, it signifies that the president’s record does not please all conservatives.
Actually, I think 19 percent not being committed to a sitting President is shockingly high. That’s NOT including people like me, who left the Republican party because of its lack of commitment to its professed ideals. But Novak is right to point out what may be the president’s political salvation – Kerry may be even less popular among Democrats. There’s nothing quite so timely as a self-destructing opponent on a day when you aren’t on your A game.