McCain, Hillary Stir Intraparty Fights

February 8, 2006
Washington, D.C.
Vol. 41, No. 3

To: Our Subscribers

  • Boehner election signals GOP desire for fresh faces
  • Senate Democrats’ Alito filibuster attempt leads to major disappointment for the Left
  • Bush’s State of the Union Address downgrades conservative themes, aims for the center
  • Democrats upset over DNC Chairman Dean’s spending habits
  • We make our first 2006 election predictions for three early Texas primaries

Novak’s Outlook

1) The State of the Union Address and budget by President George W. Bush were not political bell zingers, but they set the stage for the bitterly partisan year of 2006. Economic conservatives were disappointed by what amounted to an industrial policy dictated by the central government in picking new energy initiatives. The talk about "addiction" to oil is strictly out of the Democratic playbook. The State of the Union clearly lurched toward the left.

2) The newly proposed budget was considerably more conservative and Republican in tone than the State of the Union, with President Bush finally taking at least a first step toward long-promised entitlement reform by proposing Medicare cuts. Democrats think that they can scatter Republicans on the budget issue this year in Congress.

3) The Republicans, back on their heels on most issues, got a terrific boost with the confirmation of Justice Samuel Alito, Bush’s second conservative Supreme Court justice. That represents the collapse of the carefully planned Democratic strategy to force Bush to name less conservative members to the high court. There remains speculation that Justice John Paul Stevens, the oldest member of the court at age 85, may resign before Bush leaves the presidency.

4) Uncertainty over what comes next in the Abramoff scandal creates fear and loathing in Republican ranks. That issue ultimately defeated Acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) for Majority Leader. But the initial performance by newly elected Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) on the Sunday talk shows signaled deep GOP resistance to any real reform.

5) In back-to-back performances on NBC’s "Meet the Press" and "Today" programs, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) walked away from the Bush presidency on four separate issues. That may indicate Frist’s desire to invigorate his fading presidential prospects by splitting from Bush, but more significantly, it reflects the general perception of Bush’s political decline.

6) The government’s anti-terrorism surveillance has created a deep debate over congressional oversight. The lack of trust between the executive and legislative branches goes beyond partisan debate.

7) We find substantial beginnings of internal concern over the putative presidential front-runners in both parties — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). An increasing number of Democratic loyalists are beginning to talk about Clinton as an electoral disaster. The Republican establishment is not going to accept a McCain nomination without a bitter battle.

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