In his State of the Union message, President Bush pledged to cut the deficit by half in five years. Considering that he came to office with a surplus, and holds fast to enormous tax cuts that have exploded the deficit, this is not an impressive pledge. He now wants to slash domestic spending to pay for the tax cuts.
His strategist, Karl Rove, must know there's a major vulnerability in plans to build a long-term Republican majority, in control of both Congress and the White House.
- If President Bush and the Republican Congress are not successful in reducing the U.S. deficit or in getting it under significant control;
- If the Democrats can offer candidates for Congress, governor, senator in 2006, and for president in 2008 who advocate more impressive fiscal discipline than Bush (Governor Mark Warner of Virginia comes to mind);
- Expect the GOP governing coalition to break up over the deficit and other issues. Indeed, it will be interesting to see if the GOP Congress gives Bush everything he wants regarding tax cuts and the deficits. Senator John McCain, for one, is a deficit hawk and thinks the tax cuts are reckless.
- Expect many deficit hawks to entertain the possibility of voting Democratic in 2006 and 2008. This is one of the issues that defeated George Bush Sr. in 1992.