If you heard the U.S. Senate candidate blasting the Republican Congress and White House for the "disgusting" growth in federal spending, you might think he was a Clinton-style New Democrat.

But the candidate is a Republican, Safeco CEO Mike McGavick, and he was speaking at his press conference last week to officially announce his campaign against Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell next year.

Criticizing the White House for runaway spending is a smart issue for McGavick to campaign on. It should win him support not only from Bush-phobic independents, but also from the GOP grassroots conservatives who feel betrayed by the president's fiscal incontinence.

The Beltway Republicans are now fixated on achieving Karl Rove's vision of a permanent Republican majority, no matter how many extra bridges, parking garages, and museums they think they need to build to keep their local potentates happy. Growth in discretionary spending under Bush (II) looks more like that of the profligate Johnson and Carter administrations than Reagan, Bush (I), or Clinton.

Meanwhile, the fiscally conscious Republican base is feeling increasingly estranged from the easy-spending national party. Various grassroots efforts to reclaim the agenda and restrain spending are underway. Among these is the "Porkbusters" campaign started in September by instapundit Glenn Reynolds and other bloggers, which demands that Congress pay for Hurricane Katrina reconstruction not with new debt, but by canceling local pork projects.

With the big-spending triumvirate of Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, and Karl Rove weakened by investigations and the possibility of indictment, fiscal conservatives in Congress are starting to break ranks. Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma became a folk hero to the Porkbusters crowd when he introduced amendments in October to release funds for rebuilding Louisiana by cutting other states' boondoggles. Among his targets were $500,000 for Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park and a $220 million bridge for an Alaska island with only 50 residents.

Senator Cantwell went along with large majorities from both parties to defeat Coburn's amendments and preserve local pet projects. Candidate McGavick wouldn't comment on specific legislation, but took direct aim at Congressional spending. He promised to be "very aggressive" at opposing federal spending for state-by-state projects and reserve federal appropriations only for projects that benefit the whole country.