Cal  Thomas

Don't tell Republicans that Tuesday (Nov. 4) was an "off-year" election.

The last time Kentucky elected a Republican governor, Richard Nixon was president. It has a new one in former fighter pilot, ordained minister and family doctor (is that a resume, or what?) Ernie Fletcher.

Mississippi, which has gone Republican in recent years after many decades as a reliable Democratic Party stronghold, elected former Republican National Chairman Haley Barbour governor. Barbour beat incumbent Ronnie Musgrove by 8 percentage points, though Musgrove labeled the Yazoo City native a "Washington insider. "

President Bush, who campaigned for both Barbour and Fletcher, is entitled to claim some credit for these victories. Does this mean he could have "coattails" in the presidential election, just one year away? He and his party hope so.

The cause for Republican optimism is not only the improving economy and hope that by next November Iraq might be a more peaceful nation, but the retirement of so many prominent Democrats from the Senate where many of the president's judicial nominees have been tied up by Democrat filibusters.

Gone after the next election will be John Edwards of North Carolina, Fritz Hollings of South Carolina, Bob Graham of Florida and Zell Miller of Georgia. Miller has been providing Republicans with campaign commercial sound bites as he chastises his party for its attachment to liberal special interest groups, which has turned off many Southern Democrats. Miller says he'll vote for President Bush next year. He has never voted for a Republican for president but will do so this time because he thinks Bush is doing a good job, and he doesn't like any of the nine Democratic candidates.

If Republicans win all or most of the open Senate seats, and keep every incumbent seat, they could have a filibuster-proof majority, allowing President Bush to get his mostly conservative (that means they believe what the Constitution says, not what judges think it should mean) judicial nominees confirmed. This would do more to reverse 40 years of court-imposed liberalism than any other act, because liberal Democrats have mostly advanced their agenda through the courts and not through the Congress, as the Founding Fathers intended. Having lived by the courts for four decades, Democrats will not have a philosophical leg to stand on when their ideology dies by the courts.

Cal Thomas

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Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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