Less than four weeks before the November 7 mid-term elections, most political professionals from both major parties believe the Democrats not only will end the 12-year Republican reign in the House of Representatives, but also have a roughly even chance of taking back the Senate which they lost in 2002.
The stakes for the administration of President George W Bush are high: even if only the Lower House falls to the Democrats, they will have the ability not only to stymie his legislative agenda, but they are virtually certain to launch high-profile and potentially very damaging investigations of the administrationâ€™s performance, including allegations of corruption and gross incompetence, from Iraq to Hurricane Katrina. Until now, the Republican leadership in both Houses have protected the administration from that kind of scrutiny.
â€œIf Bush loses Congress, he is likely to be the lamest duck in memory,â€ one veteran Capitol Hill staffer said. â€œUnless he shows that heâ€™s capable of reaching out to the other side - to be a â€˜uniterâ€™, not a â€˜dividerâ€™, as he used to say, heâ€™s going to be a permanent defensive crouch for the last two years of his presidency.â€
Dragged down by growing public frustration with the Iraq war, persistent and widespread disapproval of Bushâ€™s performance, Republicans could lose as many as 40 seats in the House. While a sweep by Democrats of all 40 in the 435-seat chamber is unlikely, a net pick-up of 30, which most analysts believe possible, would give them a comfortable 15-seat majority and thus chairmanships of all House committees.
A National Journal survey released last Friday of 150 political pros equally divided between Republicans and Democrats rated the chances of a Democratic takeover of the House at nearly 75 per cent. While as much as 45 per cent of respondents told a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll in mid-September that they approved of his performance, compared to 52 per cent who said they did not, that seven-point gap has since widened considerably. Last week, for example, two polls, by Newsweek and CBS/New York Times, found a record 26-point gap, with approval of Bush falling as low as 33 per cent. Even more remarkable was a USA Today/Gallup poll that found that 36-34 per cent gap in favour of Democrats among respondents who were asked which party in Congress was better able to uphold the countryâ€™s â€œmoral standardsâ€ â€” a result that was no doubt prompted by the now-infamous scandal involving Florida Republican Mark Foley, who resigned abruptly last week after text messages he had sent to under-age Congressional pages were posted on the Internet.
â€œI was bullish before the Foley story broke,â€ one Democratic pro told the National Journal this
week. â€œAnd now Iâ€™m getting near irrational exuberance.â€ Much of Washington is eagerly awaiting next weekâ€™s release of a book by David Kuo, who worked as Bushâ€™s special assistant on faith-based issues for the first five years of his presidency.
Tempting Faith reportedly accuses Bushâ€™s top political aide, Karl Rove, and other White House officials of regularly referring to evangelicals as â€œboorishâ€, â€œnutsâ€, â€œridiculousâ€, â€œout of controlâ€, and â€œjust plain goofyâ€ and of â€œcynically hijackingâ€ the faith-based movement to serve the administrationâ€™s political ends. â€” IPS