Donald Lambro

Heritage is not alone in thinking that conservative ideas could possibly have an impact on legislation in the next Congress. Lobbying groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Association of Manufacturers believe potential alliances between newly enlarged Democratic centrist blocs, like the Blue Dogs and the so-called "New Democrats," could open opportunities for them to move some legislation in their direction.

Bruce Josten, the Chamber's chief lobbyist, thinks that on some issues, the Blue Dog caucus, which claims 44 members next year, and the New Democrat coalition, which will have 62 members, could be a formidable force on key votes. "I think there will be issues where Blue Dog Democrats could vote with surviving moderate Republicans and join with the conservative Republican Study Committee caucus on others," Josten told me.

"How many Blue Dogs do you know who subscribe to (soon-to-be House speaker) Nancy Pelosi's views? None would be the answer," he said.

Several advocacy groups I talked to this week think that 2008 election politics will play a role in how the Democrats finesse a number of issues to demonstrate they can get things done in the narrowly divided Congress.

"Because both parties now will want to take accomplishments to the voters two years from now, it's going to force a new way of doing business in Washington," said Jay Timmons, vice president for policies and government relations at the National Association of Manufacturers.

"I think we'll see some progress on our issues as Democrats attempt to find common ground among nontraditional allies in preparation for the 2008 elections," he said.

Well, if this sounds like the "audacity of hope" in Barak Obama's new book title, others see little or no chance the Democrats will pass any part of the conservative agenda because they are bought and paid for by the special-interest groups that financed their campaigns.

"Tort reform? Nothing the trial lawyers do not want will pass. Labor-law reform? The unions own the Blue Dogs. They will vote against free-trade agreements because the unions tell them to," said veteran lobbyist Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform.

"If you can't cross the trial lawyers or labor unions, on what issues are these Democrats supposed to be moderate?" Norquist said.

As for spending cuts and deficit reduction, "when they say they are against deficits, it means they are for higher taxes," he warned.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.