- The Washington Times - Friday, January 20, 2006

Karl Rove yesterday told concerned state Republican leaders that, going into the November elections, it’s the Democrats who are vulnerable on Iraq, terrorism and the American economy.

“Democrats seem to have an allergy to tax cuts,” the White House deputy chief of staff and top policy adviser said. “Sometimes it seems as if they never found a tax cut they were for or a tax increase they were against.”

Despite a “ruthless enemy” in Islamic terrorism threatening Americans abroad and at home, Democrats want to “cut and run in Iraq, [but] to retreat before victory has been won would be a reckless act — and this president will not allow it,” Mr. Rove said, earning a wave of applause from his audience. “Today, we are winning the war against Islamic fascism.”

Exactly 20 years ago yesterday, Ronald Reagan was sworn in as 40th president, and both Mr. Rove and Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman took notice of the fact in separate speeches that, several state party chairmen remarked afterward, went a good way in bucking up chairmen and national committeemen from the 50 states and five territories.

The 165-member Republican National Committee had begun its two-day annual winter meeting on Thursday with deep concerns about the political fallout from the unfolding scandal that involves lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

RNC members said privately they are particularly concerned about holding on to their party’s long-sought, narrow edge in state legislatures. The GOP now enjoys a majority in 20 state legislatures, compared to 19 for the Democrats, with the remaining 10 split 50-50 between the two parties.

After regional breakfast sessions yesterday morning, the mood of many members improved, with several saying they were buoyed to hear from fellow state chairmen how few congressional seats seem threatened by the Abramoff scandal, at least at this point.

RNC members nonetheless are acutely aware of how highly exposed the GOP is in the governorship contests this fall, with 22 now held by Republicans and 14 held by Democrats up for election. In the U.S. Senate, 18 Democratic and 14 Republican seats are up. With so few competitive House districts, Republican state party chairmen said they think they will hold that chamber, barring an anti-incumbent tidal wave of 1994 proportions.

Mr. Mehlman, in a session with reporters after his speech, attacked Democratic leaders for intimating that President Bush’s ordering the National Security Agency to listen in on phone conversations without prior court approval might be an impeachable offense.a

“It will be interesting to see,” he said whether Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. John Kerry and others “take their cue from” those saying the “president ought to be removed from office because he is defending Americans by making sure if al Qaeda is having conversations with somebody outside of this country and somebody inside this country we find out about it.”

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