January 24, 2005


Party man: Bush has cocentrated on party leadership like few other presidents (David M. Shribman, January 23, 2005, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

[B]ush sees himself not only as a war president but also as a party leader. His guru, Karl Rove, has no small ambition; he wants to establish the Republicans as the natural party of government. The president knows firsthand the value of governing with a Congress controlled by his own party -- an advantage Carter possessed but never seemed to exploit, and one that Bill Clinton so abused that he lost it two years into his presidency.

Not so Bush. He is the first president since Franklin D. Roosevelt -- the party-builder par excellence -- to increase his majorities in both houses of Congress while winning re-election. And he is the first Republican since Abraham Lincoln -- who helped put the country back together as he built the Republican Party -- to make that achievement. Unlike his predecessor, he doesn't look at the word "legacy" through a first-person-singular prism.

Harold F. Bass, a well-regarded political scientist at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., has studied presidential party leadership -- there's no specialty too small in academics or medicine -- and he concludes that Bush is emerging as one of history's leading party-builders. The president, he writes in the Berkeley-based online journal The Forum, "stands poised to reach rarefied heights of repute as a presidential party leader, rivaling Franklin Roosevelt."

One of the measures of party-building is party support in Congress, and here Bush scores remarkably well, receiving support from fellow Republicans in his first term at a 92 percent rate in the Senate and at an 84 percent rate in the House, according to figures assembled by Congressional Quarterly, a nonpartisan journal. No president has scored higher.

And he's not even close to done. The GOP stand to pick up as many as four to six Senate seats in '06

-George W. Bush, Presidential Party Leadership Extraordinaire? (Harold F. Bass, Post-Election 2004, The Forum)
-3 GOP Lawmakers May Seek Governors' Seats (DAVID ESPO, 1/23/06, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Republican Rep. C.L. (Butch) Otter of Idaho is all but officially running for governor of his state, and GOP Reps. Jim Nussle of Iowa and Jim Gibbons of Nevada both seem headed in the same direction in theirs. [...]

Gibbons' interest in running for governor was evident two years ago, when he rebuffed party recruiters seeking a challenger for Democratic Sen. Harry Reid in 2004. Additionally, Gibbons' wife is talking about a possible run to replace her husband in the House. If both run and win, she would wind up with twin public roles - first lady of Nevada and member of Congress.

Nussle's district in northeastern Iowa probably would offer Democrats the most tempting target of the three in 2006. He won re-election with 55 percent of the vote last year. Gibbons won a fifth term in November with 67 percent support. Otter topped that in conservative Idaho, gaining close to 70 percent. [...]

Other Republican House members are potential candidates for statewide office.

Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois has been canvassing support for a possible gubernatorial run, and Rep. Mark Green has expressed interest in Wisconsin. Rep. Katherine Harris of Florida is another possibility. She flirted with a senatorial campaign in 2004 before running for re-election to the House. Rep. Mark Kennedy of Minnesota is a potential candidate for the Senate, as well.

-RNC Chair Unveils 'Durabale Majority' Plan (RON FOURNIER, 1/19/05, AP)
White House ally Ken Mehlman assumed control of the Republican Party on Wednesday, crowing over GOP successes in November with a pledge "to cement these victories into a durable Republican majority."

Mehlman, a longtime GOP operative who managed President Bush's re-election bid, said voters gave the president and his party a sweeping mandate. Addressing the Republican National Committee on the eve of Bush's inaugural, Mehlman took a thinly veiled shot at former Bush rival John Kerry.

"Given the choice between freedom and fear, between paying any price and cutting and running, between victory and vacillation, the American people lived up to the best traditions of our nation and chose to rally behind our banner of freedom," Mehlman said in a text of his remarks released by the RNC before the address.

Bush tapped Mehlman to head the RNC, whose membership was expected to ratify the choice before its two-day meeting ends later Wednesday.

Mehlman, a disciple of White House strategist Karl Rove, said Bush is the first president since 1936 to be re-elected while his party expanded majorities in the House and Senate. Republican governors head 28 states, including the four largest.

"There's a word for this kind of victory," he said. "It's called a mandate."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at January 24, 2005 7:21 AM
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