Are November elections Bush's last, best hope?

The Republicans play the expectations game.

Published May 22, 2006 2:08PM (EDT)

If winning and losing is all about defining victory before you begin, you can give credit to the Republicans for getting an early start.

Although Democrats have good reason to think that they'll make big gains in Congress in November, few analysts are predicting just yet that the Democrats will actually take control of the House of Representatives. But if a report in today's Washington Post is any indication, Republicans are setting the expectations for Democrats so high that anything less than having Nancy Pelosi in the speaker's office may be seen as a sign of the resurrection of George W. Bush.

"If she's not the speaker, then conceptually I think we've turned this thing around and he has two more years to get some things done," Ron Kaufman, the political director for the president's father, tells the Post.

Bush is doing his part, at least on the campaign trail. As the Post says, he has appeared at three dozen 2006 fundraisers so far, ahead of his pace for 2002. Cheney has hit the trail, too, making 62 appearances, with more coming this week in California.

Why all the emphasis on the midterm elections? In part, it's practical: If Democrats do win control of the House, they'll get the power to investigate, the power to set an agenda and the power to make Bush's life even more miserable than it is now. But in part, the Post says, it's because nothing else under Bush's control -- staff shake-ups, gradual change in Iraq -- is likely to do much to improve the president's standing with the public.

By Tim Grieve

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

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George W. Bush Nancy Pelosi D-calif.