Losing the House is a Winner for Bush.
I don't usually ponder things from the GOP side, but an article by Walter Pincus today got me thinking. It contains the usual narrative:
If Republicans retain Congress in November, Bush advisers note, he could assert that for the third straight election, the party defied historical patterns and popular predictions. Bush, they said, could advance a fresh agenda in early 2007. But they acknowledge that a House takeover by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would foreshadow a contentious final two years fending off congressional subpoenas and hostile legislation.In fact, rather counter-intuitively, losing the House would be a huge political advantage for Bush. Let's play forward what happens if he retains it. Republicans will continue to fragment as they carve out niches to the right and left of Bush for the '08 elections. What we've seen with immigration is only a taste of coming attractions: on the economy, Bush loyalists will try to push through more tax cuts, but a newly-invigorated conservative wing will demand fiscal responsibility; Bush will try to stabilize Iraq and preserve some fragment of his legacy, but there will be big pressure from within the party to pull out; the fundie fringe will push regressive social issues on gay marriage, abortion, and stem cells, while moderates try to sound a conciliatory note. On down the line, Republicans, freed of having to combat Dems, will combat themselves.
On the other hand, if the Dems take the House, they will begin investigations into Bush's misdeeds, instantly galvanizing the GOP. The House and Senate will embark on radically different agendas, and this will temporarily mend growing GOP divisions.
In neither case will Bush be able to push through much of an agenda. But with both houses of Congress, this inaction will only highlight his futility, whereas with Dems controlling the House, each victory would be amplified. The GOP is a purely predatory party; they're great at swift-boating but piss-poor when it comes to governing. Two more years of control mean two more years of incompetence; but two years of divided rule means two years with a foe to slander. Bush, a champion divider, would do a lot better without a united Congress.