"A party on the defensive," and the Times says it's the Republicans

Is the White House worried about losing the House?

Published February 3, 2006 3:00PM (EST)

If the confirmation of Samuel Alito left you feeling depressed about the Democratic Party, perhaps an analysis of the Republicans' woes in the New York Times today will put a little spring back in your step.

Adam Nagourney says that the Republicans' election of John Boehner to replace ousted House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is "a cry of concern by an entrenched Republican majority, acutely worried that voter unease about corruption and partisan excesses could threaten its control of Congress this November." Boehner ran as a "reform" candidate -- he's not "as close" to DeLay and Jack Abramoff as Roy Blunt was, and he's the one who passed out checks from tobacco PACs on the House floor, not the one who married a tobacco lobbyist. Nagourney says the election of such a candidate, combined with Bush's "restrained" State of the Union address Tuesday, suggests that the Republicans are "a party on the defensive" as they look ahead to an "inhospitable electoral terrain."

Yeah, that and about $3 will buy you a cup of coffee and a newspaper at Starbucks, where you can sit down and read about the ways in which two right-wing justices nominated by a "weakened" George W. Bush will be rewriting American law for the next few decades.

But wait, we were trying to be cheery here.

Nagourney says the White House is feeling pretty good about the GOP's chances of holding on to the Senate this fall but that there's increasing anxiety about a Democratic takeover in the House. "If they are not worried about next November, they are whistling past the graveyard," says Joe Gaylord, a Republican consultant from the Newt Gingrich days.

Nagourney says that the loss of either house of Congress would make it almost impossible for Bush to get much of his second-term agenda through Congress. That's probably right, and for Democrats, half a loaf is surely better than no loaf at all. But we can't help remembering -- here we go again -- that it's the Senate that confirms those Supreme Court justices.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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John Boehner R-ohio Tom Delay