May 15, 2008
For the third time this year, the Republican candidate in a special congressional election has lost. In Mississippi's [First Congressional] District, Travis Childers defeated Greg Davis, a Republican mayor. This seat has been held by the GOP since the 1994 Republican Revolution. What does this [adverse outcome] portend? Virginia's Tom Davis, who will leave his House seat in January, noted that the Mississippi contest was in the "social conservative" heartland that has been at the core of the party's electoral coalition for the past generation. He said the political climate for the Republicans is the worst it has been since Watergate. The Washington Post surveyed the ten Senate seats most vulnerable to a Democrat win this fall, including Virginia, of course. Counting the two left-leaning independents, the Democrats currently enjoy a 51-49 majority, and they are now setting their sights on how to pick up nine more, which would give them a filibuster-proof supermajority.
As for what lessons to draw from their recent string of defeats, Republicans are arguing furiously among themselves. Almost everyone agrees on the need to stick to a consistent conservative message, but many disagree on what that means. The recent custom of using emotion-laden attack ads no longer seems to do the trick in getting out the vote, and some fear that portraying Barack Obama as less of an American than John McCain could backfire badly. I agree. Obama is extremely liberal on most social and economic issues, and focusing on his actual voting record and appealing to reason will attract many more votes than "Swift Boat" type ads that question his moral integrity. If the GOP keeps targeting its own "base," running ads with a sneering, hostile tone that alienate independent voters, the presidency could well go to the Democrats. If they get those nine extra seats in the Senate as well, we could be stuck with the most left-wing government since the 1930s. Nationalized health care for all, cuts in national defense, and wide-open doors to immigration. Are you ready for that, comrade?