Sunday, September 2, 2007

Kicking against the pricks

On one hand it shouldn't matter a toss. On the other, Malcolm knows he will salivate all the way to the finishing post, and still be hanging on the Net for over-night up-dates.

That's the 2008 US Elections. Despite the to-and-fros of the last few days, Malcolm doesn't expect the UK electoral timetable much to precede that: so he will try to concentrate on the immediate issue.

Issue number one must be the need to give the Republicans the bloodiest nose possible. Again, why does Malcolm care? He has a lot of admiration for many (liberal) Republicans. Compared to the corrupt and cloacal end of the Democrats, they are a shining example.

It's mainly the arrogance that gets him.

On an similar track he caught a repeat of an interview with John Major on the BBC Parliament channel. Major is, wisely, reclusive; and rations his appearances on these occasions. As a consequence, he seems more relaxed, and more approachable than his days wrestling across the sand of the arena.

What particularly caught Malcolm's attention was Major reminiscing about the 1992 Election outcome. He described sitting with Chris Patten, who had run a brilliant campaign for the Tories, but had lost his own seat at Bath to the LibDem, Don Foster. Major and Patten agreed that the elastic had been stretched too far with four successive General Election wins; and a reaction was inevitable.

There's an element of commendable humility in that recognition. It is what has been singularly missing in the Republican Party.

And the saner elements of the GOP are waking up to the extent of the problems. Here are Jonathan Weisman and Chris Cillizza, the Washington Post's mavens and election junkies, today surveying the wreckage:

A Senate electoral playing field that was already wide open for 2008 has become considerably more perilous for Republicans with the retirement of Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) and the resignation of scandal-scarred Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho).

Republicans need a net gain of just one seat to take back control of the Senate, but they have 22 seats to defend, and campaign cash is conspicuously lacking. Warner's retirement raised to two the number of open Republican seats, and both of them -- in Virginia and Colorado -- are prime targets for Democrats.

The piece points out that Chuck Hagel may retire from his Nebraska seat, and the Republicans have to defend two appointed, and unelected, Senators in Wyoming and Idaho.

Two telling quotaions spell out the mood:

"The state of the playing field looks very good, even in places where we didn't expect it to look good, even in deeply red states," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) , chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "Things could change, but if you did a snapshot, we're going to have a good year."

"It's always darkest right before you get clobbered over the head with a pipe wrench. But then it actually does get darker," said a GOP pollster who insisted on anonymity in order to speak candidly.

The one to watch, though, is Virginia. One obvious Democratic candidate is Mark Warner (no relation), who split the Virginia vote for the Senate 52-47 in 1996 (with the Republican vote down by 28%) and then in 2001 snaffled the Governorship by a similar margin. Mark Warner is still in his early 50s, has been noised as a potential Veep candidate, and would be a sound Democrat runner next year, in any capacity. By contrast, as Weisman and Cillizza remark, the
Republican field could turn fratricidal if Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, a moderate whose political base is in the suburbs of Washington, goes up against former governor James S. Gilmore III, a confrontational conservative.
Since this is happening just over the Post's garden fence, we can take that on good authority.

Malcolm, about to head off for a few days in Yorkshire, closes with one more consoling thought. Healey's well-proven First Law of Holes states, "when in a hole, stop digging." This earthy wisdom has, perhaps fortunately, never reached the inner circles of the US Republican Party.

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