GOP Losses Could Spark Partisan Warfare

The Associated Press
Monday, October 23, 2006; 2:49 AM

WASHINGTON -- The White House is bracing for guerrilla warfare on the homefront politically if Republicans lose control of the House, the Senate or both _ and with it, the president's ability to shape and dominate the national agenda.

Republicans are battling to keep control of Congress. But polls and analysts in both parties increasingly suggest Democrats will capture the House and possibly the Senate on Election Day Nov. 7.

Democrats need a 15-seat pickup to regain the House and a gain of six seats to claim the Senate.

Everything could change overnight for President Bush, who has governed for most of the past six years with a Republican Congress and with little support from Democrats.

"Every session you change the way you do business with the Congress. And you test the mood of the Congress, find out what their appetite will be. But it doesn't change your priorities," the president told ABC News.

Former President Clinton had to deal with the Democrats' loss of control of Congress in 1994. But Clinton had something Bush does not: six more years to regain his footing.

Bush has barely over two years left. The loss of either house in voting next month could hasten Bush's descent into a lame-duck presidency.

"If he loses one house here, President Bush will enter the last two years very wounded," said David Gergen, a former White House adviser who served in the administrations of Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton.

"He will have the capacity to say no to Democratic legislation, but he won't have the capacity to say yes to his own legislation," said Gergen, who teaches at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Democratic victories essentially could block Bush's remaining agenda and usher in a period of intense partisan bickering over nearly every measure to come before Congress.

Loss of either chamber also could subject his administration to endless congressional inquiries and investigations.

The president and chief political strategist Karl Rove last week expressed renewed confidence of retaining both House and Senate; others are not so upbeat.

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