There are a lot of battles Rep. Tom Cole could draw on to size up where his minority House Republicans stand going into the 2008 elections. A Chickasaw Indian and former history professor, Cole can in fact cite several. "It might be Antietam," he says, picking the deadliest Civil War battle. "They've got a lot more people, and they think they've got our battle plan," he says of Democrats. "But [Gen. Robert E.] Lee outthought and outfought [Union Gen. George] McClellan and lived to fight another day." Or the 1541 Chickasaw rout of Spain's Hernando de Soto: "We want the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to think of us as Chickasaws, very fierce warriors."
ILLUSTRATION BY JOE CIARDIELLO FOR USN&WR
While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tells us Democrats feel good about their 2008 chances, strategist Cole, boss of the National Republican Congressional Committee, thinks the battle tilts GOP. He needs 16 seats to reclaim the majority and says 61 Democrats hold traditionally Republican seats. "The next election will be fought on our terrain." His plan: "Borrow from their own attack book on us in 2006," when Democrats hit the decisions of the majority. To describe his foes, Cole draws on WWII and the Korean War. "Sometimes you get sucked forward. Ask the Germans going into Russia," he says, "or the Americans going north across the 38th parallel."