February 11, 2008

A Moment Of Cheer From John Podhoretz

John Podhoretz gives a brilliant and depressing analysis of the challenges facing the Republicans in 2008, not just in the presidential race but also in competing for the House and Senate. John sees the problem as being one of an exodus from the GOP of its more independent-minded voters that began in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina, and may only have recently stopped:

The swift, steep decline in Republican fortunes over the past few years has induced a state of vertigo in the party’s body politic. Its elected officials, eminences grises, and rank-and-file members are all disoriented by the rapid plunge in the party’s standing with the American people—just at the moment when they have to present the best possible case that their presidential candidate, and everyone who appears with him on the Republican ballot, are the proper stewards of the country’s future.

Among Republican politicians, the funk set in after the midterm congressional elections in 2006, when Democrats took back control of the Senate and House of Representatives. Having grown comfortable in power over the course of a dozen years,1 Republicans on Capitol Hill not only have found themselves coping with the ignominy of minority but have lately been assured by analysts that there is little or no chance of regaining the majority in either chamber over the course of the next three biennial elections. ...

The despairing condition of the party’s elected leadership has been mirrored this year in the low turnout of Republican voters in early presidential caucuses and primaries. In South Carolina, for example, 90,000 more Democrats than Republicans cast ballots for their preferred candidate—this, in a state that George Bush carried in 2004 by seventeen points. In New Hampshire, the gap between Democratic and Republican ballots cast was 52,000; in Iowa, there were 106,000 more Democratic than Republican caucus-goers. Since both Iowa and New Hampshire have bounced back and forth between candidates in recent elections,2 this is another decidedly unfavorable portent for the GOP. If Republicans tacitly conclude that Iowa and New Hampshire are lost, they will end up assuring an instant, if tiny, edge to the Democrats of eleven electoral votes, while granting the Democratic presidential contender the freedom to focus his or her resources and energy elsewhere.

This may hold some promise for the election, however. John McCain has better reach to independents and conservative Democrats than any other Republican, while the Democrats are fighting to the death between the most inexperienced and untested candidate and the most divisive figure in American politics. And on Iraq, McCain has an argument for competence that no other candidate on either side can match.

Republicans had better hope they can address this issue and attract more people back into the party. They need more enthusiasm than we have yet seen in the primaries if the GOP expects to overcome the odds in November.


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