GOP pollster Jan van Lohuizen has two words for any Republican who's thinking about distancing himself from George W. Bush: You can't. In the eyes of the voters, van Lohuizen says, "We are now Brand W. Republicans."
Van Lohuizen's warning comes in a memo he wrote for Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman. The National Journal's Hotline has the text, and -- depending on one's perspective -- it's either a sobering message or a stern lecture for Republicans in Congress. Van Lohuizen says that his overall showing in the polls notwithstanding, Bush is still pretty popular with Republican voters. If congressional candidates try to "drive a wedge" between themselves and the president, he says, they risk suppressing turnout by Republicans voters who may be unexcited about a party they perceive as divided.
And, van Lohuizen says, there's no escaping the "W" brand anyway. Bush is "seen universally as the face of the Republican Party," he says, pointing to polling numbers that show an "extremely close correlation between the president's image and the overall ratings of the party."