Alex's Outlook

Sunday, January 19, 2003

ANWR, caps on malpractice pain-and-suffering awards, a serious tax cut, a slew of conservative judges, fighting affirmative action in the U-Mich case, Medicare's nice to see that Bush actually is going for the whole enchilada. He has fifty senators who will more or less toe his line (all Republicans minus McCain and Chafee, but Georgia Democrat Zell Miller always votes with the Republicans), plus two Democrats who might require a little more prodding - centrists Ben Nelson and John Breaux. That leaves a 52-vote majority, which can get almost everything done in the Senate except for judges, which the Democrats can easily filibuster. The other things can be tacked onto the Senate budget, which can't be filibustered. Bush also has a few sometimes-centrist Democrats like Tim Johnson of South Dakota.

Bush is going to have an impressive record in 2004 for his base, and his foreign-policy leadership will pull over a lot of independents. Assuming the economy does decently (which the latest tax cut will help) and Bush goes into Iraq and gets the job done in a year, the Democrats are going to have a catastrophe on their hands. The only thing that can save the Democrats is: a) Bush gets stymied at the UN and doesn't go into Iraq, leaving all three Axis of Evil members intact; b) Bush goes into Iraq and suffers massive losses (if he doesn't lose outright); and c) the economy crashes and burns. I don't think any of those is likely. That leaves Bush with an easy win and a massacre in Congress:

Vulnerable Democrat Senators:

John Edwards NC

Blanche Lincoln AR

Fritz Hollings SC

Byron Dorgan ND

Patty Murray WA

Harry Reid NV (won his last election by 500 votes)

Tom Daschle SD

Zell Miller GA (he's retiring in 2004)

The following Democrats could be vulnerable, for one reason or another:

Chuck Schumer NY (if Rudy runs as rumor has it - in that case he would be screwed)

Russ Feingold is usually vulnerable because of his campaign-finance attitude. If the Republicans could find a wealthy, competent challenger, Feingold could be in major trouble.

Bob Graham FL (if he runs for President, somewhat vulnerable even if he doesn't)

That makes up to eleven vulnerable Democratic Senators. There is one definitely vulnerable Republican, Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois. Lisa Murkowski, appointed to her father's Senate seat by her father, could be in big trouble if former Alaska governor Tony Knowles runs against her. Even so, that leaves two vulnerable Republicans to eleven Democrats. (60-40 GOP Senate, anyone?)

In the House, the Democrats are already the minority by twelve seats. That will probably get worse in 04, because a lot of Southern representatives barely squeaked by in 02 and will be fighting a heavy undertow in 04, assuming nothing goes haywire before then.

This adds up to a perfect storm in 2004. The Republicans could cement their majority for years here, especially if the Democrats filibuster anything. That would only reinforce their impression as the obstructionists' party.

It's useless to predict politics two years in advance...but that doesn't change the fact that the Republicans have a tremendous opportunity. All the more reason to carry through on their election promises and deliver as much as they can. If their prescription for economic growth (tax-cutting, reining in the trial lawyers) doesn't work, they might as well find out now.


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