The Political Almanac for 2006

Published 8:12 pm Monday, January 9, 2006

By By Tray Smith
For anyone who is interested in politics, this is your year. Despite anything else that happens in 2006, the event that will most affect us all is the elections in November. Already causing a lot of excitement, they will continue to make headlines and grab our attention as we approach closer and closer to November.
Today, I am going to make my official political forecast for the coming year and for the elections. Afterwards, I will allow you to hold me accountable for my views. Leading up to the election, Congressional Republicans and President Bush will seek to regroup after suffering a bad news year in 2005. Their recovery has already gotten underway. President Bush has participated in a series of speeches and events recently to boost his popularity and garner support for our mission in Iraq. The President is also expected to lay out a legislative agenda at the end of January for Republicans to rally around. This agenda will motivate the Republican base and give GOP candidates something to sale to their voters.
The Republican Party will receive an additional boost as the flaw ridden response to Hurricane Katrina fades out of people's minds, the Iraqi parliament forms a government, and expected troop reductions occur in Iraq. As long as there is progress in Iraq, then there will be progress for the Republican Party.
The threat to the Republicans over the next year is the lobbyist scandal with Jack Abramoff. Reaching a plea deal with federal prosecutors this week, Abramoff is set to testify against several Congressmen that he supposedly bribed. The number is estimated to be around twenty members, representing both houses of Congress and both parties. But it is rumored that there are several more House Republicans involved in the mischief than any one else. My guess is the media will make it a big story, but most Americans want care, as they are more concerned about buying gas.
The Democrats, on the other hand, will continue to try and exploit the bad news the Republicans have received over the past year for their political gain. They will try to paint the Republicans as belonging to a "culture of corruption". Citing examples such as Tom Delay's legal problems, the Jack Abramoff scandal, and the Hurricane Katrina response, the Democrats will make the Republicans out as a party that is incompetent and corrupt. They will also try to exploit our mission in Iraq for political gain by deeming it a failed policy.
While the Democrats now have the edge, they have huge mountains to climb if they want to become the majority party in either house of Congress, or win seats.
Conventional wisdom favors their party to gain a few seats, but not enough to make a difference.
The challenge facing Democratic candidates across the nation is that they have shot themselves in the foot on national security. Attacking the President's policy in Iraq while the President was focused on Hurricane Katrina, the Scooter Libby investigation, etc., gained them several political points at the time. But now that the President has shot back, their opinions on the war are becoming less and less popular. It is also likely that we will have a substantial amount of troops coming home before the elections, which further worsens the Democrats political position.
Most importantly, the Democrats are now threatening to filibuster the Patriot Act, which is vital to our anti-terrorism efforts. They have sharply criticized the President's domestic wiretapping program for people communicating with al-Qaeda. These positions will allow Republicans to smear them as being weak on national security, which they are. Just as happened in 2002 and 2004, terrorism will propel Republicans to gain seats in both houses. It just proves the long known fact that, as long as the focus is on national security, the Republicans win. That is the bottom line.
I must add that Congressional elections will not be near as entertaining as our governor's race. Our gubernatorial primaries will be, as a recent AP headline read, "a must-see." Roy Moore will compete against incumbent Governor Bob Riley in the Republican primaries. Moore has the avid support of social conservatives, but Riley has the support of the business community and the campaign money that it provides. The question is whether Riley can overcome the harm from his unpopular tax increase proposal in 2003. Meanwhile, Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley will compete against former Gov. Don Seigleman, who is currently under indictment, in the Democratic primaries. This is sure to be a good one. My guess is, Baxley wins, though I would not call Riley out yet.
Tray Smith is a political columnist for the Atmore Advance. He can be reached for contact at His column appears weekly.

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