'Tis the season to take stock and promise to do better in the coming year. Last August Political Points put together a list of big summer stories which might have legs in the fall. We said we'd check back to see how they developed, so here's the scorecard.
A few were gimmes; there was no way the War in Iraq or Hillary Clinton would diminish in importance. What we didn't foresee was the role Democratic hawk Rep. John Murtha would play in giving Democrats (and the Administration) a path out of Iraq. Clinton has continued to annoy the left by pursuing her center course but her potential Republican opponent for Senate, Jeanine Pirro, turned out not to be as tough a cookie as we thought.
The Gang of 14 was a focal point in Senate negotiations but it has not been cohesive on all issues and the group is split on the Alito nomination. Its ring-leader, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, triumphed on the torture issue forcing the Bush administration to do a 180. As the president's poll ratings declined, the ranks of dissident Republican Senators expanded on a number of issues including the Patriot Act and drilling in the ANWAR.
A week after the column was filed, Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist died and John Roberts did indeed become Chief Justice. The blogs not only showed their staying power but increased their clout. A handful of conservative blogs effectively led the fight against the nomination of Harriet Myers and forced President Bush to name someone more to their specifications.
The break-up of the AFL-CIO continues to be important to the future of the Democratic Party but the intramurals have failed to grab the attention of the msm which prefers to focus on business rather than labor. Labor had a huge victory in California where they invested mega-millions to defeat Gov. Schwarzenegger's union-busting referenda but the spotlight was on the Terminator's weaknesses rather than union muscle.
Sen. Frist's troubles have come more from his ineffective Senate leadership than from his position on stem cells. Frist had a bad year—from Terry Schiavo to questions about his own finances—but he is still actively looking at the 2008 Republican nomination. Whether being Majority Leader is a help or a handicap will be played out in the next two years.
Two other GOP possibilities who we thought would do more this fall, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, were active around the edges but most of the oxygen was sucked up by media darling John McCain. And political pundits still have a crush on Virginia Sen. George Allen who has yet to score with the public.
The CIA investigation became even bigger and Washington is still holding its breath about the fate of presidential advisor Karl Rove. We eventually learned why Judy Miller was in jail (the prosecutor banked on her eventually caving) but we still don't know Robert Novak's second source.
The state of Ohio is a Republican disaster area. Rep. Robert Ney is mired in the Abramoff investigation and Democrats are salivating at the possibilities in Ohio in 2006. One interesting wrinkle has occurred. With the seat of Republican Sen. Mike DeWine possibly in play, Democrats have a tough primary fight on their hands. Iraq War veteran Paul Hackett, who almost picked off a House seat in a heavily Republican district in Cincinnati, has a strong opponent for the Senate nomination in Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown. Brown has run a brilliant early campaign, hiring experienced liberal organizers, wooing the party establishment who have been wary of Hackett and his movement supporters, and taking out ads on progressive Internet sites. Polls show Brown leading Hackett among Democrats but in late December, the Ohio UAW broke ranks with other labor unions and endorsed Hackett over Brown who has a solid labor record.
Two huge stories we completely missed were the impact of Hurricane Katrina, which was downgraded to a category three the day the column was filed, and the demise of Rep. Tom DeLay. The conventional wisdom in late August was that DeLay would dodge a bullet in Texas. He didn't and today he is temporarily out of the Republican leadership. Many think that when his old pals Michael Scanlon and Jack Abramoff sing that even his seat in Congress could be in jeopardy.
Some wins, some losses but mainly a very busy news year. The fun of covering politics is that it is constantly changing. May your 2006 be filled with unexpected and delightful twists and turns.
Happy New Year!
By Dotty Lynch