The Note: The State of the Bush Presidency

WASHINGTON, May 22

To review where we are:

It seems safe to say that mojo restoration will not be produced by the President's call to create "a commission to examine the full impact of baby boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid" that would "include members of Congress of both parties, and offer bipartisan solutions." Or by his proposals "to train 70,000 high school teachers to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science," and "bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms."

Those were, of course, signature parts of the Bush 2006 State of the Union, which the Washington Post's political team once suggested was where resuscitation, resurrection, and renaissance would occur.

Four months later, if the Post is right (and it is) all those things will only come (if they come at all) in about six months, when voters vote. Bolten only bounces, it seems, when the threat of a Speaker Pelosi/Emanuel is lifted.

The Washington Post's Peter Baker and Jim VandeHei report that President Bush and his team are "focusing on the fall midterm elections as the best chance to salvage his presidency and are building a campaign strategy around tax cuts, immigration and national security." LINK

"A top adviser said Rove and White House political director Sara M. Taylor are advising candidates not to duck the issue of Iraq but rather to make it a centerpiece of their campaigns."

"The Rove-Taylor view is that one-third of Americans agree with liberal Democrats calling for immediate withdrawal and another third support staying the course. The middle third wants a new strategy, but would be leery of pulling out and leaving behind a volatile Iraq, a position strategists believe leaves those voters open to persuasion."

And/but the Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook takes up the "trouble brewing for the GOP" theme by looking at the ramifications of a potentially demoralized Republican base unmotivated to go to the polls in November. LINK

Two other must-reads over the weekend add to our shared precise descriptions of this particular moment in the 2006 cycle.

1. From Adam Nagourney's Sunday New York Times must-read: "Over the past week, a handful of once-safe Republican Congressional seats have come into play, and other Republican incumbents are facing increasingly stiff re-election battles, according to analysts, pollsters and officials in both parties. The change amounts to a slight but significant shift in the playing field, and a potentially pivotal change in the dynamics of this midterm election." LINK

2. Keying off of a Friday fundraiser that President Bush attended on behalf of Rep. Thelma Drake (R-VA), the Washington Post's Dan Balz and Michael Shear reported in a Saturday must-read that Stu Rothenberg now has 42 Republican districts on his list of competitive races. Last September, he had 26 competitive GOP districts. LINK

President Bush, aware of all four stories -- and the fact that Charlie, Amy, Stu, Adam, Dan, and The Note rarely agree about anything -- will again get to tout the formation of a (partial) Iraqi government when he makes remarks on the "Global War on Terror" in Chicago, IL at 11:35 am ET. Per the Chicago Tribune, upon arrival at O'Hare, the President will honor a family's volunteer work for Hurricane Katrina victims. He'll then helicopter to McCormick Place. LINK

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