The Battle Hymn Of...The Republicans

IT'S HALLELUJAH TIME in the White House as the Democrats discover (again) what a mistake it is to underestimate George W. Bush. Here's how far he plans to go with his new mandate

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Brooks Kraft / Corbis for TIME

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For the Democrats, a hidden benefit of last week's defeat may be that it has forced them to take their adversary seriously. After Sept. 11, many liberals believed Bush's popularity would eventually disappear as the memory of the attacks faded, the way his father's did after the glow of the Gulf War. But the election demonstrated that this war remains immediate to many Americans, and that they still view this President as a reliable guardian of the country's resolve. "Democrats have to come to terms with just how popular the President is," says a senior Democratic aide. "They continue to view him as a lightweight and not up to the job. But that's not where the Americans are." Democrats may still be able to bring Bush down two years from now, but they can't afford to wait for him to fall. --Reported by Perry Bacon Jr., Matthew Cooper, John F. Dickerson, Viveca Novak and Douglas Waller/Washington

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