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Dawn of the donkey

"Dawn of the donkey" Continued...

Issue: "Endings & beginnings," Jan. 13, 2007

Economist and Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore views those tax cuts as the most critical item Republicans must defend over the next two years. "Those have been so important for the economy, and it's the last issue Republicans have left as their brand," he said. "They have to fight any impulse from the Democrats to cancel those tax cuts or to raise other taxes."

That impulse may grow strong when Democrats seek to address the alternative minimum tax, which will raise the tax burden for 23 million Americans this year rather than the 4 million it affected in 2006. Both parties are committed to preventing that sudden change, but under the pay-go rules, Democrats would need to recover the lost $40 billion elsewhere.

Military spending is one possibility. Bush intends to increase troops in Iraq before any withdrawal begins, a position sure to draw squawks from anti-war Democrats preparing for a 2008 presidential run. Barring rapid and dramatic improvement, Iraq figures to dominate the political discussion for at least the next two years and largely determine the nation's next executive branch leader.

As yet, Democrats have outlined no unified position on the difficult fight in the Middle East, some calling for immediate troop withdrawal while others advocate sending reinforcements. Such diversity of opinion favors the Bush mission, preventing consensus opposition from the majority party.

Iraq is not the only issue on which this Democrat-controlled Congress will struggle to agree. Pro-life Democrats continue to increase among the party ranks, and widespread disagreement remains over how to solve the country's massive problem of illegal immigration. "In the Democratic Party, they've elected a lot of people who ran as conservatives," Moore said. "So that means it's going to be very difficult for them to govern as [united] Democrats if they want to safeguard all these House seats they picked up in Republican districts."

Should Democrats fail to unite, however, the label of do-nothing party could haunt their presidential nominee, an injurious tag no matter how charming the candidate.

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