Base Off: The House's Iraq War Vote

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With the Iraq death toll reaching 2,500 and a new Wall Street Journal poll indicating that only 35% of Americans want to maintain current troop levels, why would the Republican House stage a show vote calling on America to stay the bloody course?

The answer lies with who's in that 35%. Almost without exeption, that is the Republican base. And if 2004 was all about swing voters, the 2006 race is all about energizing the parties' core constituents —because turnout is low across the board in off-year races, but it is especially low among independents and centrists.

If the GOP manages to hang onto Congress this year it will be because they did a better job than the Democrats of energizing their core support. (See also: the anti-gay marriage amendment vote.)

The House resolution may also play better among moderates than it would seem at first blush, because of its denunciation of "arbitrary" timetables for withdrawl. While 57% of Americans want a draw down of American troops, only 38 percent favor establishing a firm timetable. If this vote energizes the GOP base without alienating voters who have ambivalence about the Iraq war, it will have been a useful bit of political theater.