November 9, 2004


Can Bush Break the Second-Term Jinx? (LOU CANNON, 11/09/04, NY Times)

President George W. Bush justifiably casts himself as the apostle of the Reagan Revolution begun by his father's predecessor. But Mr. Bush may find in his second term, as Ronald Reagan did before him, that he must overcome resistance as much from his friends as from his adversaries. [...]

[P]olitical expectations are higher for Mr. Bush in his second term than they were for Mr. Reagan. That's because Ronald Reagan, despite a 49-state landslide victory in 1984, never enjoyed the presumed benefit of a Republican-controlled House. In 1986, midway through that second term, Democrats also regained control of the Senate.

Without openly abandoning supply-side doctrine, Mr. Reagan dealt practically with ascendant Democrats, particularly on economic issues. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 was an ambitious mix of tax cuts, tax increases and loophole closings that on balance was less of a drain on Treasury coffers than is Mr. Bush's plan to make permanent the tax cuts of 2001.

In foreign policy he combined fiery anti-Soviet rhetoric - "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"- with an attempt to find common ground with Soviet leaders. While Mr. Reagan was famously stubborn in his refusal to abandon his pet project of the Strategic Defense Initiative, he was accommodating on the margins and shared with Mr. Gorbachev a genuine desire to reduce nuclear arsenals.

Our current president, despite a popularity with rank-and-file Republicans that may equal Ronald Reagan's, has less running room.

Mr. Reagan could be hamstrung by Congress precisely because Democrats were re-ascendant and he'd spent no effort trying to build the Party up to oppose them. Mr. Bush should benefit greatly from both the majorities he's growing and from the fear that moderate Democrats have that they'll be his targets in the mid-term of '06.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 9, 2004 8:29 AM

2000 was a Democratic year in Congressional elections and certainly Bill Nelson and Maria Cantwell will be prime targets.

Posted by: Bart at November 9, 2004 12:22 PM

The GOP will also win the Senate seats in MI, MN, and NY.

Lou Cannon must be losing his touch - Bush has a lot more latitude than Reagan did, and not just because of the GOP control of Congress. Bush has the will to make a 2nd term memorable.

Posted by: jim hamlen at November 9, 2004 2:58 PM