Washington's most respected election analyst, Charlie Cook, is now calling the House for the Republicans. And he's predicting not just a close race, which had been the call of most analysts until now, but is predicting a so-called "wave" election, one where the party in power is swept away. Cook spoke with the Wall Street Journal.
Before GOP tribalists begin crowing and dancing the sacred dance of victory, Cook cautions that he does not think the GOP is likely to win the Senate. And, with all respect to my many friends in the House, the Senate is what really matters when the other party holds the White House. Why? Every Senator has the enormous power to just say no -- such as putting holds on nominations or using procedural means to gum up the works or -- and control of the Senate would give the Republicans the ability to push through legislation they might not be able to otherwise. Not to mention the symbolic power of a GOP victory in both houses.
Given all that, let's consider what the Republicans are likely to focus on should they gain the bully pulpit of controlling the House Armed Services and House appropriations defense bodies. top of the list will be protecting defense spending from what some GOP leaders believe is an overeager Robert Gates and a left-leaning Democratic Party eager to strip defense money and spend it on social programs.
The other area likely to receive increased attention is oversight of Afghan strategy. Some senior GOP leaders have worried about the rules of engagement, which they think were foisted on Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former commander, by the White House. When Gen. David Petraeus issued his new rules of engagement in late July they were, arguably, even tougher in restricting the use of force. If they hear comments from troops that they are confused by the new ROEs or feel overly restricted by them, expect Republicans to hammer away at this.
But it's early days yet. Most aides are on vacation and most lawmakers are on the hustings or fund raising. Have a look at the Defend America statement House GOP leaders put out earlier this year for some insight on what they will bring to the election discussion on defense issues. Hopefully, GOP views will become sharper the closer we get to the elections.