"In the poll taken Thursday through Sunday, just after Democrats swept to majorities in the House and Senate, those surveyed said by nearly 2-to-1 that they want Democrats to have more influence than President Bush on the direction of the nation. Nearly half said the country will be better off under Democrats; 16% said it will be worse off; and one-third predicted no difference," says USA Today of its new Gallup poll. "Bush's job-approval rating was 33%, tying his second-lowest ever. The Republican Party was viewed favorably by 35% - an eight-year low." Still, there's "skepticism" about Democrats potentially raising taxes and about their commitment to improving congressional ethics.
NBC political analyst Charlie Cook writes in his CongressDaily column that one of the smartest Republicans he knows "posited that by siding with the 44 Blue Dog Democrats, the about-200 House GOP members might actually end up with more conservative measures passing the House than if they did the bidding of the White House, which would likely end up compromising with Democratic congressional leaders." Cook also writes of Pelosi's noncontroversial priorities for the first 100 legislative hours, "If this is the direction Democrats choose to go, and they have the discipline to resist temptation to take the hard left, they have a chance to do very well. But if they give in to their hearts as opposed to their heads, this majority will last exactly 24 months."
The Washington Post says Pelosi's decision to back Murtha over Hoyer has critics charging that "she is undercutting her pledge to clean up corruption by backing a veteran lawmaker who they say has repeatedly skirted ethical boundaries." Murtha "has battled accusations over the years that he has traded federal spending for campaign contributions, that he has abused his post as ranking party member on the Appropriations defense subcommittee, and that he has stood in the way of ethics investigations. Those charges come on top of Murtha's involvement 26 years ago in the FBI's Abscam bribery sting."
The New York Times notes that Pelosi's letter of support for Murtha "was surprising, since it meant that Ms. Pelosi could be perceived as being weakened before she even takes her new office if Mr. Murtha falls short."
With her endorsement, "Pelosi signaled that she can be expected to prize personal loyalty as she oversees the fractious party," says the Los Angeles Times. "Pelosi may have another problem. As the crop of freshly elected Democrats... came to Capitol Hill for orientation Monday, they encountered a leadership dominated by mostly liberal, old-school Democrats."
Hotline's blog reports that most moderate Blue Dog Democrats continue to support Hoyer over Murtha. "The reticence of most heartland Democrats, at least publicly, to back Murtha indicates the political winds haven't changed too much. A spokesman for a prominent conservative freshman Democrat summed up his boss' support for Hoyer in one word: 'Iraq.' The Iraq war has grown unpopular, but a call for immediate withdrawal still doesn't play in Republican-leaning districts."