1) Get out in front of Republicans in Congress who are demanding spending cuts. Start slashing pork, put the Medicare bill back a year, make some actual cuts in the budgets of government departments. Go farther than anyone expects until the Democrats are screaming at the tops of their lungs that the cuts are too deep.
2) Wait a few months before moving on any new tax cuts and before trying to make the old tax cuts permanent, but don’t give up on them. The tax cuts are still important, but given how strident the complaints about the deficit are right now, the President needs to prove that he can handle cutting spending before he moves forward on tax cuts.
3) Now would be a great time to get rid of any dead wood in the administration — like Norm Mineta, Douglas Feith, & Michael Chertoff. Nothing says, “We’ve got a new attitude,” like getting rid of incompetent &/or unpopular cabinet members.
4) Social Security reform is going nowhere. Bush should admit just that, blame the Democrats for obstructionism, and accuse them of putting seniors at risk by refusing to reform the program.
5) Select a staunchly conservative judge who’ll excite the base — someone like Priscilla Owen, Michael Luttig, or Janice Rogers Brown.
6) Come out now while gas prices are still extremely high and talk about how it’s a top priority of the Bush administration to get gas prices down. Then make it clear that the strategic oil reserve will be tapped again if necessary and that the Clean Air Act Amendments will continue to be suspended until gas is $1.50 or less per gallon. Since gas prices will probably drop significantly over the next few months, this will help insure W. gets some credit for the drop (which seems fair since he has been blamed for the rise) and if we’re lucky, the Democrats will be dumb enough to demand that the environmental standards be put back in place, which would mean that they were in effect lobbying for higher gas prices.
7) Split Bush’s illegal immigration policy into two parts. The tough enforcement of our immigration laws and new proposals to beef them up? That’s very popular and should be done now. The soft amnesty and guest worker programs? Those are not popular and should be packaged together and pushed much later after the other changes go into effect. Of course, that makes it much less likely that the 2nd package will pass, but it seems doubtful that they’ll pass now and it would be detrimental to the GOP even if they did.
8) In Iraq, there is going to be an October election, a December election, Saddam’s trial, and probably significant troop withdrawals all coming within the next 6-9 months. That’s why it would be a good time to start bloodying the anti-war dems. Sharpen the distinctions a bit, get Iraq back in the public’s mind, and then as each “big event” happens in Iraq, it will boost the public’s mood.