For 20 minutes, Mr. Mehlman and the White House political director, Sara Taylor, tried to lift the cloak of gloom that has descended on the top ranks of Republican strategists, using what one of the dozens of lobbyists, donors, party aides and other supporters who listened in later called “happy talk.”
President Bush and his political strategists may be the most outwardly optimistic Republicans in Washington these days, and perhaps the only ones. They are doing their best to fend off the sense of impending doom within their party that they fear will become a self-fulfilling prophecy on Nov. 7.
They are enlisting longtime allies for an all-hands-on-deck effort to change the mood for the final push to Election Day, and they are putting out the word for Republicans to keep a lid on any pessimistic talk. They are also planning a travel blitz for Mr. Bush during the final week to 10 days of the campaign.
And though they fully expect to lose seats, they are also keeping their fingers crossed. They are counting on a barrage of last-minute advertising and their 72-hour voter turnout operation to keep Democrats from taking over the House and Senate, even if it means they only eke out a victory.
But those the White House counts on to help raise party morale at such low moments say they are having a hard time of it, when so many polls augur ever-worsening election results and when so many things have gone wrong, including the Mark Foley scandal and grim news from Iraq.
“I’m trying to buck people up, but let’s just say I’m hiding all the sharp objects in my office,” said Rich Bond, a former Republican National Committee chairman who now runs a consulting firm.
Even Mary Matalin, the longtime Bush family aide and confidante, confessed, “I’m in my stoic mode now,” though she said she believed that the party would prove the dire predictions wrong.
Mr. Bush has been saying for months that he believes Republicans will keep control of the House and the Senate, and he is not changing his tune now, even if it means taking the rare step of rebuking his own father.
In an interview shown Sunday on ABC News, Mr. Bush was asked about a comment by the first President Bush, who said this month that he hated to think about life for his son if Democrats took control of Congress. “He shouldn’t be speculating like that, because he should have called me ahead of time,” the president said, “and I’d tell him they’re not going to.”
Article continues and can be found in the NY Times.
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