Still crazy after all these years.

Notes from the political sidelines.
Nov. 10 2006 12:52 PM

Still Crazy After All These Years

The nuttiest congressional district in America keeps its reputation intact.

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Term's Up: According to the New York Times, Republicans are feeling blue about their chances on Tuesday, and "increasingly steeling themselves" to losing the House after 12 years. GOP strategists describe the midterm outlook as "grim," "dreadful," and "the worst political environment for Republican candidates since Watergate."

Chin up, Republicans! Losing isn't all bad. In time, the conservative base, which never liked Congress to begin with, will be glad to be rid of it. From the president on down, Republican leaders will no longer have to resent Karl Rove for taking all the credit. Any surviving GOP members of Congress can stop worrying about going to jail for selling their vote, because nobody will want to buy it.

For Republicans from the famous class of 1994, here's the best consolation of all for losing the House this time around: You will finally have kept your promise.

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The most powerful issue for the Republican revolution in 1994 was congressional term limits, which made voters think the 104th Congress would bring fundamental change to Washington. One of the early signs that the revolution was not on the level came in late March 1995, near the end of Newt's first 100 days, when the new House of Representatives failed to pass a constitutional amendment to put a 12-year limit on congressional service. Forty Republicans crossed over to help defeat the measure, which fell 60 votes short of the required two-thirds majority.

Most of the class of 1994 voted for the term-limits amendment. Had it passed, they would be out of a job after this Congress, anyway. So, in truth, voters are just helping them honor their original parting wishes.

At least a dozen Republican members who are in tough races this time voted for 12-year term limits in 1995. Half are members of the class of 1994: Steve Chabot of Ohio, Charlie Bass of New Hampshire, J.D. Hayworth of Arizona, Gil Gutknecht of Minnesota, Barbara Cubin of Wyoming, and Sue Kelly of New York. That's not counting Mark Foley and Bob Ney, for whom the House was a 12-year program that led straight to a 12-step program. Those two were so honor-bound to keep their term-limits pledge, they were willing to take the law into their own hands--and much, much more.

Others look like whiners by comparison. Last month, Kentucky Rep. Ron Lewis ('94) denied that he had ever promised to limit his term in Congress, even though he had written his constituents a letter in 1998 explaining why he wasn't keeping that promise. Lewis' opponent tried to run an ad accusing him of lying "when he put his hand on the Bible and took an oath to serve only three terms." The local FOX affiliate rejected the ad, claiming there was no proof the pledge was that length or that Lewis had put his hand on the Bible when he said it.

If Tuesday looks so bad, Republicans should stop cursing their luck and start claiming it as their destiny. In the minority, Gingrich used to complain that government programs never went away. By that standard, the vanishing Gingrich revolution wasn't a failure--it was a sweeping triumph! On Tuesday, the Republican class of 1994 should declare victory for finally doing what it came to Washington to do: go home. ... 11:59 P.M. (link)

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Friday, Nov. 3, 2006

Unsecured Undecided Location:Dick Cheney went hunting for votes in my hometown last night. The first vice president in history never to change his mind didn't try to change any Idahoans' minds, either. Republicans decided it was too risky.

In 2004, Republicans won raves for micro-targeting—using modern marketing techniques to identify potential Republican voters based on what magazines they read and what purchases they make. This year, the GOP has been forced to use those same techniques for a less impressive purpose: to limit election rallies to true believers.

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