By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
The mounting anger of Americans over the rapid expansion of the federal government through the stimulus, bailout packages, and pending energy and healthcare reform plans is leading some GOP analysts to suggest that the country is on the eve of another Reagan-era or 1994-style political revolution. "I was in the Reagan administration and helped Newt Gingrich, and the white-hot anger out there is way beyond any of that," said one adviser to House GOP leaders. What's different this time, he and others say, is the lack of a leader like Reagan or Gingrich, making it unclear how long the anger will last. Another difference, especially compared with the 1994 overturning of Democratic control of the House and Senate after 40 years, is that the debate is over key economic issues, not scandals like the post office affair. "Issues don't fade," said the leadership adviser.
Grover Norquist, a conservative leader and president of Americans for Tax Reform, added another difference. Typically, he said, revolts are sparked by big tax increases, but this one is the result of big spending, a phenomenon touched on today by the Washington Post's Dan Balz and the Washington Examiner's Michael Barone, who is a former U.S. News senior writer. Norquist also said that while conservatives and GOP offices in the past played a role in organizing grass-roots protesters, many of the town-hallers are new to the game and unaffiliated with the regular party groups.
The passion of voters appears to be so great that House GOP advisers and analysts are now talking with greater confidence of a big pickup in seats in the off-year elections. Some are suggesting a gain of 38 to 40 seats. That will leave Republicans shy of a majority. But if they pull to within a seat or two, they expect some "blue dog" Democrats to switch parties, leading to a GOP majority. "This is very Clintonesque," said another Republican House adviser, referring to the big election victory of former President Bill Clinton in 1992 that was followed by his bid to expand the federal government and subsequent voter rejection of Democratic control in the House and Senate in 1994.
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