More than anything, though, the fate of the Bush presidency hinges on Iraq. Following another successful election and some nascent signs that American forces are finally figuring out how to defeat the insurgency, it appears that there are some reasons to be optimistic. The ravings of FOX News’s Sean Hannity aside, there isn’t a Democrat alive who wouldn’t like to see Iraq transform itself into a pro-Western bastion of stability and human rights. The consensus of expert opinion is that six months from now we’ll know a lot more than we do today.
Capturing the Senate in 2006 would appear to be an impossible goal for the Democrats. Outnumbered by a margin of 55 to 45, the party would have to win 23 of the 33 seats that will be contested this November in order to get to 51.
Winning back the House for the first time since 1994 could be more easily accomplished — at least theoretically. With all 435 seats up for grabs every two years, a voter revolt against the Republicans could sweep minority leader Pelosi and company into the majority. There are problems, though.
Even though the Democrats must increase their delegation by 16 to take back the House, the number of truly competitive House districts across the country has dropped from more than 100 to about 30 over the past dozen years, thanks to redistricting aimed at protecting incumbents of both parties. That means the playing field is a lot smaller than it appears.
Not that it couldn’t happen. The stench of corruption that has descended over congressional Republicans undermines their principal strength: the perception that they’re somehow more fiscally responsible than the Democrats. Former Democratic political consultant Michael Goldman, now a talk-show host with Bloomberg Radio, says voters may conclude that “we might as well have the pigs in the trough care about us instead of just the rich people.” (Goldman’s program, Simply Put, can be heard locally from 7 to 9 pm and 10 pm to midnight on WBBR, AM 1130.)
And winning back the House would matter. Not only could a Democratic House stop some of the Bush administration’s worst excesses (last week’s $40 billion in budget cuts, including student loans, comes to mind), but it could also order hearings into such matters as the White House’s deficient war planning, the wiretaps, the Valerie Plame matter, and the like. Katrina has already morphed into the scandal that the media forgot. Democratic hearings into the Bush administration’s mind-boggling negligence would remind the public that the White House is no better at rebuilding New Orleans than it was at rebuilding Fallujah. No doubt the Republicans would attempt to tar newly empowered Democrats as obstructionists. But if the public doesn’t like the things that the Democrats are obstructing, that would be all to the good.
AND THEY’RE OFF!
Already? Good grief. Yes, it’s true: 2006 will be a crucial year for those seeking to run for president in 2008. Locally, Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, a Republican who announced earlier this month that he wouldn’t seek re-election, has been campaigning for months.