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The most important impact may be the one nearest the hearts of many of Bush's core voters: the ability to clear the President's nominees through the Judiciary Committee. Judge Priscilla Owen, a Bush pick for the federal circuit court, probably would have won confirmation by the full Senate had the vote ever come to the floor; majority leader Tom Daschle made sure it never did. "For a lot of our base voters, this is the biggest issue out there," says an outside adviser to Bush's political team. "If we don't deliver, they won't work as hard for us [in 2004]." The stakes are still higher, because Bush will probably have a chance to fill one or two U.S. Supreme Court vacancies over the next two years.
The more cynical political operatives note that Republican control of both houses could come with a cost: Bush can't blame the Democrats for whatever voters might be unhappy about come 2004, whether it's a war gone bad, the Dow at 3000 or household health-care costs that rival mortgage payments. But that risk may be worth it if Republicans ultimately get to hold sway over all three branches of government for the first extended period since 1929. Of such unified power are New Deals and Great Societies made; only this time, it would bea Republican vision of what government can accomplish if all its engines work together.