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The GOP is in trouble, and so be it page 2
Midterm elections likely to take a heavy toll on Republican representation in Congress

RICHARD AMRHINE
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Date published: 10/15/2006

By Richard Amrhine

continued

Hurricane Katrina. A disaster such as this allows a president to roll up his sleeves, demand progress, and feel a region's pain. President Bush rolled up his sleeves for the cameras, but that was it.

Much is being reported now about New Orleans' heroic comeback. But those who were ignored in the days after the hurricane's landfall are ongoing victims of neglect today.

Discretionary spending and the budget. President Bush is actually good at something, and that's overspending. Overall discretionary outlays rose 2.3 percent annually under President Clinton, compared with 9.7 percent annually under President Bush, according to figures from the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Bush's continuing policy of enormous tax breaks in the midst of his war on terrorism, hurricane recovery, and Sept. 11 have combined to create a federal deficit of $250 billion. It has actually been reduced thanks to Americans' addiction to spending money--including, like the government, money they don't have.

Gasoline prices. Everyone likes retreating gas prices, but if they are a result of a concerted effort to affect the outcome of the election, whether Bush is a player or not, the backlash will add to the GOP's problems.

Everything else. Despite holding the White House and both chambers of Congress, the Republicans have pursued bone-headed strategies and divisive initiatives.

The president's foolish allegiance to the religious right has help sink his approval ratings to historic lows. He wastes time on issues like flag-burning and same-sex marriage, rejects the promise of stem-cell research, and fumbles away reform for health care, Social Security, energy policy, and environmental protection.

So it won't be surprising if this un-Midas touch, which empowers Republican Washington to ruin everything within reach, brings unprecedented changes to the partisan composition of Congress. But just as in any election, each race should be viewed on a case-by-case basis by a district's voters.

There are Democratic candidates who are running against entrenched Republicans merely because the party needed a body to sacrifice. Other Democrats have stepped up purely to capitalize on the GOP's misfortunes. These are not noble causes.

Republicans who have sought bipartisan cooperation, who have questioned the president's policies, and who have kept themselves above the unfolding ugliness shouldn't be tossed aside. There is a need for institutional knowledge and experience to transfer from Congress to Congress, as well as some partisan balance.


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