Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), is the minority leader in the US House. As guest on "Meet the Press" this past Sunday, part of the discussion centered on what would happen if the Democrats were to take control of the House after November's elections.
For one thing, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) would become the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
The House Judiciary Committee, for those who slept through the late-90s, is where impeachment proceedings are born. If the Democrats win control of the House, John Conyers would have the power to decide the whether a process to impeach President Bush would begin.
Rep. Pelosi is pretty smart. She doesn't want to give the GOP ammunition to begin to excite its base so she denied that Rep. Conyers would be able to being impeachment proceedings.
But if the Democrats win control of the House, Mr. Conyers will certainly lead the House Judiciary Committee to being hearings with a view toward the I-word and Mrs. Pelosi may wring her hands in agony but will have to admit she can do nothing to stop it.
November's election is going to come down to this:
If the Democrats take control of the US House and/or the Senate they will issue subpoenas to anyone who ever worked at, attended a meeting in, or knew anyone who walked in front of, the White House in a concerted effort to mount impeachment charges against President Bush, Vice President Cheney, or both.
It is unlikely that most Republicans will, even in the face of Iraq or Abramoff or gas prices or immigration, vote for a Democrat for the US House - especially if a Republican is the incumbent.
It is, however, possible that Republicans will, whether out of disappointment, or anger or simple exhaustion, simply stay home. Republicans deciding not to vote would have the effect of giving their votes to the Democrat in the race by default.
That, happily, is not a probable outcome.
Turnout in mid-term elections is generally far lower than in Presidential years. It is a common error in Congressional campaigns to look at the most recent election to determine turnout patterns.
If the current election is a mid-term (as it will be this year) then the most previous election will have been a Presidential year and will skew the numbers. If you are running in 2008 and you go back to the previous election, you will be looking at a mid-term - 2006.
To see what is likely to happen in a Congressional election, you have to go back four years to measure potential turnout in the current cycle.
In 1998, the mid-term election in Bill Clinton's second term, the GOP was poised to pick up somewhere between eight and 12 seats. In the event, Democrats won a net of five seats and Speaker Newt Gingrich lost his job.
Democrats whipped up their supporters - especially African-American voters - into a frenzy of anti-Newt/anti-Republican activism and ended up with Presidential-level turnout numbers in enough Congressional districts to overwhelm what should have been a Republican tide.
Here's what the GOP should do: As soon as Karl Rove is cleared by the prosecutor investigating the Valerie Plame business - which may happen as soon as this week - he should leave the White House and take up a post at the Republican National Committee with two goals:
1. Raise money 2. Run the turnout operation for the mid-term elections.
On the first point, Karl Rove would generate tens of millions of dollars for Republican candidates across the country. Working out of the RNC he would not be subject to any of the rules which govern federal employees.
On the second point, Rove has raised turnout operations from a high art to a religion. Nobody, in our professional lifetime, has done it better.
Karl Rove on the stump for the next six months reminding the Republican faithful what their future will look like with Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House and John Conyers as Judiciary Chairman might well do for the GOP in 2006 what overplaying the impeachment hand did for the Democrats in 1998.
On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A citation from Time Magazine the week of the 1998 election which substantiates my point; a quandary-inducing Mullfoto, and a Catchy Caption of the Day.