HOUSTON -- As President Bush sets out to duplicate the 1948 comeback of President Harry S. Truman by running against Congress as he did, consideration is being given to another Truman gambit -- calling Congress back into session before the election.
Congress, in recess now, is scheduled to go back after Labor Day for about a month or more. But with so many incumbents under fire this year, there will be much pressure from them to fold up and get back home to try to save their own seats.
As a result, there is likely to be a very small window of opportunity of a few weeks for Mr. Bush to pull a Truman and demand that Congress stay on the job to deal with ignored Bush legislative proposals. Bush sources say the idea is on the table as a way to draw a further parallel with Mr. Truman's winning assault on what he called "the do-nothing Congress."
Such an "October Surprise," however, would run the danger of being so politically transparent that it might backfire on Mr. Bush. Nevertheless, his campaign strategists have already decided to make the Democratic-controlled Congress a prime target, not in hopes of electing a Republican majority, but rather to allege that serious attempts by Mr. Bush to bring about change have been thwarted by Democratic partisanship.
The focus of attack on the Democratic Congress is further seen in two television ads trotted out by the the National Republican Congressional Committee here. They argue that if voters want change, they should look to Congress, not the White House.
One ad says: "When America wanted change, we changed presidents. But for 38 years one thing hasn't changed: the Democrat Congress. For nearly 40 years the Democrats in Congress have made all the decisions -- raising our taxes, spending our money and regulating our lives. To change America, change the Democrat Congress."