Notes from a Washington Research Council lunch with Charles E. Cook Jr., editor of The Cook Political Report in Washington, D.C.
--The lesson to take from our bungled election for governor is not to be so cheap on the mechanics of elections—and, especially, on the caliber of personnel. “You tend to get the system you pay for,” he said.
--The deal by 14 moderate senators to approve some, but not all, of Bush's conservative judges was politically more of a victory for Bush than for his opponents, because Bush is getting most of the judges he wants. The perception is different because the Left claimed victory and the Right, defeat.
--President Bush won last November because in a divided electorate he had a post-Sept. 11 advantage as a national-security president, a more attractive personality than Kerry’s and a masterful campaign.
--Thinking he has a mandate when he really doesn’t, Bush has overreached on Social Security and divided his party on stem cells and the Schaivo case. Still, he has passed bankruptcy reform and tort reform, and that is something.
--Sen. Maria Cantwell is vulnerable next year, but only to a strong Republican candidate. One of the benefits of Dino Rossi throwing in the towel is that the party can start focusing on 2006.
--Because of the growing advantage of incumbency, Democrats have no hope of taking back either the U.S. House or Senate next year. About the best they can hope for is to cut the Republican advantage in half and take back one or both chambers in 2008.
--Rudi Giuliani may be leading the polls as a Republican nominee in 2008, but the social conservatives in his party will never let him have the nomination. Maybe Sen. John McCain of Arizona or one of the governors, like Mitt Romney of Massachusetts or Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota. Maybe Sen. George Allen of Virginia. Not Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has family problems, who doesn’t’ seem to want it, and who made a lot more money in the private sector. Not Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, who is too new to politics and lacks political skills.
--Sen. Hillary Clinton is leading the pack to be the Democratic nominee in 2008, but her lead is not strong considering that every Democrat in the country knows who she is. The Democrats will have an advantage in 2008 because the voters have historically “rotated the crop” after two terms in the White House, and because a lot of Americans like divided government. But they have a similar problem as their opponents: the candidates most likely to get nominated by the party faithful are not the easiest to sell to a national electorate.
--More Americans care about this stuff today than ever before. Lots of Democrats felt personally injured by Kerry's loss, and if Bush had lost, just as many Republicans would have felt crushed. Americans didn't used to take politics so personally.
My thought: Maybe we were better off paying less attention.
Respond to Bruce.