- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2006

President Bush yesterday staked the Republican agenda for the final two years of his administration to tax cuts and Iraq, saying next month’s election is a referendum on both, and chided Democrats for “dancing in the end zone” to celebrate victory prematurely.

“The two issues I see in the campaign can be boiled down to who best to protect this country and who best to keep taxes low. That’s what the referendum’s about,” Mr. Bush said at a morning press conference at the White House.

He said he also will push the unfinished business of his second term — reforming Social Security, overhauling the tax code and pushing for a broad immigration bill — and is “more likely to achieve those three objectives with a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican-controlled Senate.”

For a president who in 2003 famously said he doesn’t read newspapers, Mr. Bush appears to have closely followed news reports this year and seemed amused at the amount of attention being paid to Democratic leaders who would hold top positions if power changed hands.

“We got some people dancing in the end zone here in Washington, D.C. They got them measuring their drapes,” he said. “They’re going over to the Capitol and saying, well, ‘My new office looks beautiful. I think I’m going to have this size drape there or this color.’ ”

That was an apparent reference to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who could become the next speaker of the House, and who joked to the Associated Press recently that she could then have any office suite she wanted. Mr. Bush also seemed to take aim at Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, who recently earned a cover story in Time magazine titled “Why Barack Obama could be the next president.”

“Magazines have got all kinds of new stars emerging when they haven’t even won the votes yet,” Mr. Bush said.

Mrs. Pelosi’s office said Democrats are not overconfident.

“There’s not a tape measure in sight,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Crider. “We’re not taking anything for granted.”

She said this year’s election for Democrats is a referendum on Iraq and the economy, but also on Mr. Bush’s push to reform Social Security and on a broader quest for change at the top levels of government.

Democrats also tried to turned the tax attack back on Republicans, arguing that by leaving town without extending the college-tuition tax credit or sales-tax deductions the majority party has also fostered a tax increase.

Republicans had insisted on coupling those tax cuts with a broader package that included permanent elimination of the estate tax — something Democrats refused to do.

Mr. Bush did little to dispel reports that he and his top advisers are confident about next month’s outcome.

“We’re organized,” he said. “We’ve got a fantastic grass-roots organization to turn out the vote.”

The president also said he does not resent those Republicans who are running by criticizing his Iraq policy, “nor am I resentful that a lot of Democrats are using my picture. All I ask is that they pick out a good one.”

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