GOP CAMPAIGN PLAYBOOK: IRAN AND JUDGES. Just over two months to go, and the Weekly Standard‘s Fred Barnes writes that prospects for the GOP in November have improved in recent polls, but not enough. Where can President Bush start to rouse Republicans to get to the polls? Barnes: “The place to start is Iran.” Here’s more:

So bring on the midterm election, right? The answer is an emphatic no. As favorable as recent trends have been, they are not nearly enough to spare Republicans a nasty defeat, including the loss of the House and perhaps the Senate. The country is in a disagreeable mood and ready for a change. The Republican base is grumpy and apathetic. Bush may be America’s choice to fight terrorism, but he falters on other issues. His boost in the polls doesn’t mean he’s now popular. He’s merely less unpopular. And the August bounce may prove to be ephemeral, as earlier upticks have.

There’s much to do. Standing pat and expecting terrorism to dominate the campaign would be foolhardy. … It’s Bush’s actions, not his words, that will matter. Americans want to see him fighting for America’s security. …

The place to start is Iran. The diplomatic option is exhausted. No one expected the mere possibility of economic sanctions to cause Iran to halt its program to build nuclear weapons. And it hasn’t. Now Bush must brook no dissent in pursuing stern sanctions. Russian and Chinese leaders have personally assured him they would back sanctions if Iran refused (as it has) to stop uranium enrichment. The president must hold them to their word, warning that their relations with America will be jeopardized if they balk. It’s also time to make clear to Iran that the military option is indeed an option. ….

“A major problem for Bush and Republicans in the midterm election is turnout,” Barnes continues. “Republicans have the most sophisticated turnout operation known to man. But it won’t work if Republican voters, particularly conservatives, are angry at their leaders or indifferent.” What’s the next part of the formula to improve turnout? Barnes says it’s no secret: “Besides national security, the issue that most energizes conservatives and Republicans is judges.”

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