President Bush may have drawn cheers at campaign rallies last year by calling the federal income tax code "a complicated mess" and promising to make its "million pages" simpler and fairer. But H&R Block can breathe easy for another season. Bush aides tell TIME that the President is likely to postpone any big push for comprehensive tax reform--which looked like it would be a centerpiece of next year's agenda--until '07 or '08. In the meantime, he will probably start small by mentioning the issue in the State of the Union and other addresses next year. Tax reform tested poorly with a Republican-financed focus group, showing more groundwork needs to be laid. The official White House stance is that Bush has not decided whether to pursue the idea next year, but aides say they doubt they could attract Democratic support in a midterm-election year. And the G.O.P. is gun-shy after the Social Security debacle. "No one wants to put something out there that's not going to go anywhere," a White House official said. But House Republicans are still likely to pass a simplification measure by April 15 so they can bash the IRS on the campaign trail.
Surprisingly enough, the biggest crowd pleaser is turning out to be the President himself, despite low ratings in the polls. White House officials say Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have already done more to help '06 candidates than they had at the same point in the '02 and '04 election cycles. So far this year, Bush has raised $31 million at 13 events, including last week's $125- a-plate pizza-and-burgers reception at the Baltimore Ravens' stadium for the Senate campaign of Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele. Mark Knoller of CBS News, who meticulously logs presidential movements, says that since taking office, Bush has spoken at 184 events that raised more than $505 million. But given that a new request to campaign with him arrives daily--and that Bill Clinton managed to cram in 203 fund raisers in his last 13 months in office--the current fund raiser in chief will no doubt keep hauling in the lucre.