Thirteen months before his first presidential election, George W. Bush was on a California campaign swing with a single reporter. The news in Washington was a House GOP plan to slash federal spending, and his spokeswoman, Karen Hughes, encouraged me to ask Bush about it.
“We shouldn’t balance the budget on the backs of the poor,” the Texas governor told me. And so began Bush’s successful rebranding of the Republican Party: He separated himself from unpopular congressional Republicans and rode “compassionate conservatism” to the White House.
Iraq and Hurricane Katrina undermined Bush’s credibility early in his second term, and the war paved way for the election of Barack Obama. Now Republicans are at a crossroads more perilous than what Bush addressed in 1999 — for a litany of reasons, none more significant than the demographic tsunami threatening to destroy the GOP.
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