WASHINGTON, May 3
For all the press conferencing, for all the floor speechifying, for all the polling, for all the focus grouping, for all the media monitoring, for all the rubbing of the Hastert and Bonjean Buddha bellies -- for all of those things and more, the congressional Republican majority has no friggin' clue how all of the daily Hill rigmarole is playing back home.
Holding private district-by-district and state polling that belies their public confidence, GOP strategists for both chambers throw everything they can think of against the wall on a daily basis and see which Wacky Wall Crawlers seem to stick.
What is the net effect on voters' November choices of a series of feel-your-driving-pain news conferences versus some shaming Wall Street Journal editorials?
Or of haphazardly pitching a $100 rebate and then pulling it back?
Or of the daily Trent-Lott-thinks-Dr./Sen./Leader-Frist-is-about-as-competent-as-Karl-Rove quotes?
If you want to be the party of ethics, lower gas prices, tax cuts, national security, values, and something to do with immigration, can you win an election if you disappoint Gail Collins, drivers, people making less than $500,000/year, retired generals, Gary Bauer, Tom Tancredo, and John McCain?
Can you hold the majority by relying on the strategic stylings of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, Ken Mehlman's pot o' money, some "defining" summer votes, the weakness of (Was) Big Labor, Rick Santorum's guile, and sophisticated micro targeting to bail you out?
If the whole game is keeping both majorities -- and you assume as fixed factors for the sake of argument POTUS job approval below 35% and an unpopular war in Iraq with no real end in sight -- does it matter what happens on Capitol Hill each day?
Because they want their lives to have meaning -- and their paychecks to continue clearing -- Kevin Madden and Jim Margolis certainly believe all of this jockeying matters. So the press conferences get planned, the releases get written, the background banners get commissioned, the talking points get distributed, and the Situation Room gets entered.
But The Note knows that only three things really matter in determining the outcome: how well Tony Snow and Jim Rutenberg get along; what the price of a box of cereal is on Election Day; and what psychologists at Northwestern University find in their on-going research are the effects on adult congressional challengers of being regularly yelled at as if they are children by a manic ballerina and former fundraiser.
But the ants will continue to race around the plastic farm today, with Democratic Sens. Durbin, Baucus, Dorgan, Boxer, and Johnson hold an 11:00 am ET press conference on gas prices.
House Republicans are expected to pass their ethics reform bill today, "despite vigorous opposition from Democrats and outside watchdog groups who assail the measure as too weak," writes Tory Newmyer of Roll Call.
Rep. Pelosi (D-CA) and her fellow members of the House Democratic leadership team hold a 10:00 am ET press conference following their caucus meeting.
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and House Judiciary Chairman Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) brief reporters on the new voting rights bill via teleconference at 10:30 am ET.