Politics: Plans (and Hopes) for the SOU

The White House is crafting a State of the Union agenda to help it relaunch after a dismal 2005. The focus: a domestic package to shore up GOP support in next year's elections, says a senior adviser who declined to be identified because the discussions are ongoing. Bush will stress fiscal discipline, while his senior staff have warned congressional leaders privately to reform their own pork-barrel spending. Bush will also promote health-care savings accounts and portable pensions as part of a vision for moving employees away from lifetime reliance on a single big employer. He is also likely to open a broader debate about entitlements such as Medicare, questioning whether the country can afford the growing burden of the baby boomers' retirement. The good news for Team Bush is the upbeat mood of guru Karl Rove. After months of fretting about a possible indictment in the CIA-leak investigation, Rove is energized by the challenge of elections. "Karl is in his laboratory," said one close friend, granted anonymity when discussing a private conversation. "He's already got more ideas about next year than you can imagine."

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