The Power of the Purse.
Although we tend to focus on the polls, there are actually a couple of major proxies for power. The other is fundraising. Mostly unnoticed in yesterday's activities, Bush spent the second half of his day being shuttled to Baltimore, where he raised a half million dollars for senate candidate Michael Steele.
It wasn't remarkable that Bush could raise this kind of cash in a single visit--it's actually a relatively small amount for a Bush tree-shaker. What's remarkable is that Steele has distanced himself not only from Bush, but the GOP:
Steele has seemed cognizant of those facts in both major appearances of his young campaign: He did not utter the word "Republican" in his campaign announcement or at Wednesday's event. In his 2 1/2 -minute introduction of the president, Steele delivered a nonpartisan appeal for himself, without words of praise for Bush or his accomplishments.Polls represent the public face of power. Privately, though, the rich place bets on the most malleable to their cause. Bush, unprecedented in that regard, has been an unprecedented fundraiser. Steele, a potential red Senator in a blue state (he's looking to replace Democrat Paul Sarbanes), is going to be better for entrenched power than a Democrat--but to get elected he needs support from powerful friends.
Bush is so toxic that he can no longer address the public. Few candidates in close elections will want to be seen with him on the stump. But behind the scenes, where politics really happen, Bush's power seems pretty robust.