Saturday, November 04, 2006

Bush, Rove Confident GOP Will Hold Both Houses

The publicly displayed over-confidence of George W. Bush and Karl Rove going into next week's midterms is giving a sinister feeling of deja vu to more than one political observer.


If Bush is worried, he does not let on. Nor does his top strategist, Karl Rove, who, just as he did in the final stretch before the 2004 election, has made a point in the past few days of appearing jovial and carefree. Wearing a Cheshire cat grin and the same green tie with greyhounds two days in a row, he playfully teased the traveling media, mocking David Gregory's pocket handkerchief and stuffing pieces of white paper in the jacket pockets of other reporters so they would match the NBC correspondent.

Though he did not offer any commentary on the elections, in a conference call with business executives this week Rove outlined five reasons he thinks Republicans will hold Congress, according to a participant: incumbency, more money, better get-out-the-vote organization, the intensity of GOP voters and favorable territory where competitive races are being fought out.

Rove said he was particularly worried about three or four House seats in Indiana and House seats in New York for which top-of-the-ticket Democrats are headed for huge victories, according to the participant. But Rove was optimistic about holding the Florida seat of Republican Mark Foley, who resigned amid a House page scandal, and disparaged Democratic turnout efforts as "sporadic and episodic." ...

Even when a sour note turns up, it is quickly overwhelmed in these Bush bastions. The president made a stop Friday in a jampacked, sweltering high school gymnasium in Le Mars, Iowa, the self-styled ice cream capital of the world. At one point, someone in the crowd held up a painted sign that said "Impeach." Bush supporters pulled it down as the room erupted in boos. Then, following instructions given before the rally for how to drown out hecklers, volunteers started chanting "USA! USA!"

Bush plowed on with his speech as if nothing happened. The crowd responded with raucous applause, cheers and foot-stamping as if rooting their Bulldogs to a basketball title. "Cheerleaders (Heart) Bush," said one sign. In that room, in that moment, at least, the polls seemed far away.

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