Kevin Phillips, on one of the keys to beating President Bush in 2004:
The younger Bush's vulnerability for pandering to the religious right is a lot different — bigger, but tougher to nail — than his father's. In 1992, as the elder Bush's job approval and election prospects plummeted, he had to openly flatter the party's preachers, paying a price with suburban swing voters. President Bush hasn't had to do that since early 2000, when he needed Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and the Bob Jones University crowd to save his bacon against John McCain in the South Carolina GOP primary. What the younger Bush has done instead is to give the religious right so much patronage and critical policy influence — to say nothing of coded biblical references in key speeches — as to have built them into the system.
The degree is little less than stunning. In late 2001, religious right leaders sampled by the press said Bush had replaced Robertson as the leader of the religious right, becoming the first president to hold both positions simultaneously. Next year's Democratic nominee could win if he or she is shrewd enough to force the president to spend the autumn of 2004 in the Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago suburbs defending his stance on creationism, his ties to flaky preachers and the faith healer he's appointed to an advisory board for the Food and Drug Administration.
Bush, however, will never utter any unkind words about his legislative henchman, because [Tom] DeLay stands high in the eyes of the president's core constituency, conservative Republicans. DeLay's conservatism, moreover, is an all-encompassing mantle. Unlike some congressional Republicans who love tax cuts but shrink from moralistic lectures about abortion and homosexuality, or those who feel squeamish about the bias toward the rich in the recent tax cuts but see the government as moral guardian, DeLay is the seamless conservative.
DeLay abominates any environmental regulation (a hangover from his time as head of a pest-control company), is four-square anti-abortion and supports the president's most truculent assertions in foreign policy except for the so-called road map for peace in the Mideast, which he regards as a sniveling sellout of Israel's biblical right to virtually all of the Holy Land.
Add to that a delirious delight in cutting taxes, not so much for the purpose of ventilating the economy but because tax cuts cut off oxygen to the federal government, and you have the man Democrats love to hate.
But you also have the man whose positions on so many issues are just so far over the top that he gives to Bush the power to reassure the American people in 2004 that, unlike some Republicans, he is the standard to which critical swing voters can enthusiastically rally.