White House Week
Sweets Are Not Found on This White House Menu
Political strategists believe that President Bush and his advisers won't remain as conciliatory as they seemed right after the midterm elections. "Other than a few photo ops, they actually have done little or nothing that says they see the light and 'get' that there's a price to pay for always playing to the base," says Democratic pollster Geoff Garin. And White House advisers actually agree in some important respects with Garin's assessment. They say, for example, that Bush won't back off his support for legislation to allow warrantless eavesdropping of suspected terrorists (story, Page 31), won't give up on conservative judicial nominees whom he is still pushing, and remains committed to hard-liner John Bolton as United Nations ambassador-plus, he ended the week by appointing a pro-abstinence head of family- planning programs. "The White House is not going to yield on judges or the war on terror," says a White House strategist. With Democrats not planning to back off their priorities either, it all presages some next-year fights on Capitol Hill.
One Less Gift (Ouch) to Take to Hanoi
On the eve of the president's departure for the Asian economic summit in Hanoi last week, the House declined to give President Bush a showpiece bill that would permanently normalize trade with Vietnam. Since one of Bush's goals in Asia is to promote trade liberalization, this hurt. The bill was opposed by representatives from textile states but was also seen as a rebuke by Republicans still smarting from the midterm elections. The House also delayed acting on a minor government spending bill that Bush wanted to sign before his trip. The message: Republicans were too caught up in their leadership races to bother with the president's needs.
Making Way for More Cuban Ballplayers
Sen. Mel Martinez, the likely new general chairman of the Republican National Committee, wants to pay special attention to reaching out to Hispanic voters, whose support for Republican candidates declined in the November 7 elections. Martinez, who is Cuban-American, has been a strong advocate of a comprehensive approach to changing the immigration laws, favoring a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and rejecting plans that focus only on border security. Martinez argues that the security-only tack alienates Hispanics and turns them against the GOP. This position, however, has drawn criticism from some conservatives who feel that the "path to citizenship" rewards law breaking. Martinez says he can bridge these differences.
So Who Owns Values Voters Now?
New internal polling by Democrats shows that in addition to wiping out the GOP's advantage on national security in the midterm elections, Democrats dramatically gained ground with so-called values voters. Among "values-first voters"-those who say that their faith is as much as or more of an influence on how they cast their ballot than any other factor and who form more than half the electorate in many states-the GOP advantage shrank from 22 points in mid-2005 to 10 points two weeks ago. Blame Republican scandals, says party pollster Cornell Belcher, rather than anything that Democrats have done. Religious voters "haven't fallen in love with us," he says. "They're just really ticked off at Republicans."
PHOTO OP: November 17, the Presidential Palace, Vietnam
President Bush passes a Vietnamese honor guard following his arrival in Hanoi, where he met with President Nguyen Minh Triet and the heads of Asian nations. It was the president's first trip to Vietnam-riding from the airport to the capital, he passed the tomb of Ho Chi Minh and the lake where a Navy pilot named John McCain crashed in 1967.
With Kenneth T. Walsh, Paul Bedard and Dan Gilgoff
This story appears in the November 27, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.