Thursday, May 15, 2008

Came the dawn:

The New York Times, a day on from the result in the Mississippi special election, is still measuring the aftershocks:
The Republican defeat in a special Congressional contest in Mississippi sent waves of apprehension across an already troubled party Wednesday, with some senior Republicans urging Congressional candidates to distance themselves from President Bush to head off what could be heavy losses in the fall ...

Representative Tom Davis, Republican of Virginia and former leader of his party’s Congressional campaign committee, issued a dire warning that the Republican Party had been severely damaged, in no small part because of its identification with President Bush. Mr. Davis said that, unless Republican candidates changed course, they could lose 20 seats in the House and 6 in the Senate.

“They are canaries in the coal mine, warning of far greater losses in the fall, if steps are not taken to remedy the current climate,” Mr. Davis said in a memorandum. “The political atmosphere facing House Republicans this November is the worst since Watergate and is far more toxic than it was in 2006.”

The result in Mississippi, and what Republicans said was a surge in African-American turnout, suggested that Mr. Obama might have the effect of putting into play Southern seats that were once solidly Republican, rather than dragging down Democratic candidates.

Now those canaries are music to Malcolm's ears.

Though, from his ancestry dahn t'pit, Malcolm knows Tom Davis has muddled his metaphor. It's when the canaries are silent and drop off their perch that the miner should worry.

If the analysis is correct, something remarkable is afoot:
  • The traditional, "yellow-dog" Democrats (so-called because they'd rather vote for a yaller dog than a Republican) and
  • Obama's crusade of students and Black Americans
are combining into one of the most potent political forces seen in a generation or more.

More below the fold (who's folding?) ...

And now we have the Washington Post piling in. And this is really scarey: it looks suspiciously close to a melt-down:

House Republicans turned on themselves yesterday after a third straight loss of a GOP-held House seat in special elections this year left both parties contemplating widespread Democratic gains in November.

In huddles, closed-door meetings and hastily arranged conference calls, some Republicans demanded the head of their political chief, while others decried their leadership as out of touch with the political catastrophe they face.

The usual suspects are arraigned:

"What we've got is a deficiency in our message and a loss of confidence in the American people that we will do what we say we're going to do," conceded Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The losses of conservative House seats in Louisiana and Illinois this spring were explained away by many Republicans as setbacks in which they were hampered by bad candidates.
Notice that: it's the "message", "the American people" and "bad candidates". The Post makes it clear that the republicans made every effort to avert the Mississippi disaster:
To reverse its losing streak, the NRCC pumped $1.3 million from its depleted coffers into the race. Freedom's Watch, a conservative independent group, pitched in. Vice President Cheney appeared at a last-minute rally. Bush andSen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, lent their voices to automated phone calls imploring Republicans to vote ...
The result was what we Brits would call a 16½% two-party swing (from 62-37 to 54-46). Anyone on the wrong end of one of those has been well-and-truly rogered.

The Post goes even further, tentatively considering (and thanks to ever-reliable Charlie Cook rejecting) the notion of a Democratic:
filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate.
Cook estimates:
gains of as many as seven Senate seats and 15 to 25 in the House.
All this gives the Post the justification of a side-bar (see right) identifying where the dead GOP walking can be found.

And if the forces of truth, light and liberty need any further encouragement, the conclusion to the Post's piece gives it in abundance:
"We haven't hit bottom yet. I've never seen members so frustrated or demoralized," former House majority leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) said in an interview ...

"There is no simple, easy way out of this," said Glen Bolger, a GOP pollster who works closely with congressional Republicans. "This is extraordinarily problematic."
Malcolm's own bottom-line comes from Charlie Cook's bottomless rag-bag of political commonsense:
when a political party is experiencing bad times, it doesn't catch many breaks. When a party is riding high in the polls and has a popular president, its flawed or inferior candidates can win in favorable or even neutral districts. But when times are bad, a party can field superior, unblemished candidates and still lose in neutral or unfavorable districts. And in hard times, a party may need stellar candidates to win even in favorable districts.

To be sure, in both Louisiana's 6th District and Illinois's 14th, Republicans nominated weak candidates. What's more, they were unadorned Reagan revolutionaries at a time when the Reagan revolution has been relegated to the history books.

For GOP candidates to run anywhere--even in the Deep South--as if we were still in the mid-1980s makes no more sense than if a Democrat tried to run today as a clone of Franklin Roosevelt.

Based on conversations in the 23 states that I have visited since the beginning of this year, many Republicans are horribly embarrassed by their party's positions and actions on fiscal policy, foreign policy, and social policy. Furthermore, many Republicans feel that their party has lost its ethical compass.

Pick the bones out of that.

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