Saturday, November 20, 2004

Sen. George Allen, who was head coach for the historic Republican wins in the U.S. Senate this month, said the party has a clear mandate that it will pursue with unflinching determination.

The seven incoming Republican senators — along with several incumbents he helped re-elect in tough races — come to Washington promising to cut taxes, shrink the federal government and institute wide-ranging tort reform, Mr. Allen told The Washington Times.

“Our batch [of freshmen] is going to be for allowing people to keep more of what they earn; they’re going to be against nanny, meddling, burdensome government,” the Virginia Republican said in an interview in his Senate office about the priorities of the expanded Republican Party. “They’re going to be looking for solutions to litigation.”

Although local issues were important in the races as well, Mr. Allen said all the new candidates pledged greater accountability in education, more energy independence and smoother confirmations of President Bush’s judicial nominees.

Of the 10 most-closely watched Senate races this year, Mr. Allen, as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, helped win eight open seats and defend two more. Not since 1928 has the Republican Party enjoyed an 11-seat advantage in the Senate. The incoming Senate will have 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats and one Democrat-leaning independent.

Wearing cowboy boots and savoring a lip full of Copenhagen chewing tobacco, Mr. Allen was nothing short of giddy over the Republican victories. At times, he even seemed to run out of sports analogies for describing the wins — a considerable feat for the son of former Redskins coach George Allen who never tires of pitching sports metaphors to explain politics.

Winning the Louisiana seat without a runoff (or “overtime,” as Mr. Allen called it) was the biggest surprise of the election “because it took the most complicated play of all.”

“What we had to do in Louisiana was like a double-reverse flea-flicker and a lateral,” he said. “We had a plan that was complicated.”

Democrats, meanwhile, picked up only two open seats nationwide and sustained a net loss of four — including their incumbent party leader, something that hasn’t happened in more than 50 years.

Mr. Allen said he has not spoken with Minority Leader Tom Daschle — who lost his South Dakota seat to former Rep. John Thune in a stunning upset — since the election. Ousting the highest elected Democratic official was like “winning three seats,” he said, but added: “There’s no reason to gloat.”

“I clearly disagree with his philosophy and the stands he’s taken,” Mr. Allen said. “Personally, you always feel for somebody who loses. They tried, they fought hard, spent a ton of money — that’s for sure — but I wish him well in the private sector, and I’m glad we have John Thune.”

A clear demand Mr. Allen said he heard campaigning across the country the past two years is that the Senate should stop blocking Mr. Bush’s judicial nominees. The ouster of Mr. Daschle, who he said was the “architect, the chief obstructionist,” is proof positive that Americans want Mr. Bush’s nominees granted a final vote, one way or the other.

“He had the values of Capitol Hill, rather than the Black Hills,” Mr. Allen said, referring to the mountainous region of southwest South Dakota.

But that’s not to say Republicans are completely unified across the board on all issues.

Mr. Allen said Mr. Bush’s guest-worker program — that would allow illegal aliens living and working in the United States to remain if they have jobs and apply as guest workers — needs “some modification.”

“I don’t think people who’ve come in here illegally ought to be put on the citizenship track ahead of others who are trying to do it the proper, legal way,” he said. “I just think rewarding illegal behavior in that sense only would encourage more illegal behavior.”

The huge Senate wins have some on Capitol Hill talking about the first-term senator as a possible contender for the Republican leadership nomination in 2008. After all, it was the same launching pad that propelled Majority Leader Bill Frist into that post.

Asked his thoughts about 2008, Mr. Allen said, “I haven’t determined who I’ll be supporting.”

Asked whether he’s interested in running for president, he gave a short laugh and said: “I’m interested in doing the job the people of Virginia hired me on to do to the very best of my abilities, and if I’m still alive and fortunate, I will be re-elected in 2006.”

• Staff writer Jerry Seper contributed to this report.

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