The Detroit Free Press has an editorial wondering if despite all their advantages, the Democrats could still blow it in 2008:
Consider: We have an unpopular Republican president who is struggling to extract some success out of an even-less-popular war that the United States started under a premise that was proved wrong. His fellow Republicans are bailing out of Washington like rats off a sinking ship. Veteran GOP lawmakers are quitting Congress after losing control to the Democrats last year. Investigations and scandals abound…
So 2008 will be a great year to be a Democrat, a cakewalk to power, all the power.
Except that the Democrats have three potential stumbling blocks: Their internal fighting over presidential primaries that could alienate voters in some key states, such as Florida and Michigan; the prospect of nominating a candidate who cannot win, as has happened before; and a backlash in favor of a relatively “safe” Republican presidential candidate by voters who, given recent history, just don’t want one party running everything.
That analysis may prove to be correct come November of next year.
Forget the political situation now. People won’t start seriously paying attention to politics for a year. Anything can change in a year. In 2004, President Bush had just creamed John Kerry. The next year, President Bush couldn’t get elected dog-catcher after bungling just about every major political issue. Politics is always fluid.
Are the Democrats better positioned right now? It’s a virtual certainty. The Republicans are poised to lose seats in the Senate if the election were this year. The House could see more GOP losses. As Bob Novak has been reporting, the GOP’s mood is anything but sunny.
However, a year in politics might as well be an eternity.
The Democrats have an astonishing ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The approval ratings for Congress remain at the same lows that swept the GOP out of power. The likeliest Democratic nominee is Hillary Clinton, whose commanding leads in the polls put her in unquestioned front-runner status. Yet even the Democrats have their doubts about Hillary. The Catch-22 they face is that the other candidates aren’t any better — Barack Obama has personality, strong oratory, and almost no experience. John Edwards is as much of a phony as John Edward and his “Two Americas” schtick doesn’t work when it’s quite clear he lives in the America with the palatial mansions. The rest of the field has no chance — Joe Biden and Bill Richardson at least have some policy credentials, but no traction in the polls. Could Hillary lose the nomination? Certainly. Does it ultimately help the Democrats? Not so much.
The Democrats are playing to the base, but that doesn’t win elections. On the other hand, the Republicans have a problem with their base, but they’re fielding candidates who could actually capture the center. Rudy Giuliani is about as well positioned as a candidate could be. He’s moderate on social issues, has the leadership skills that Bush has been lacking, and is an anti-corruption candidate in a time when government corruption is the #1 issue. The same can be said of Fred Thompson. Even the second-tier candidates have appeal: John McCain’s anti-pork stance has resonance. Mitt Romney knows how to work a room and has strong executive credentials. The GOP field hasn’t set the base on fire, but has a much better chance of gaining traction with the general electorate than the Democrats.
It could be quite possible that a new crop of strong GOP candidates emerge in the House and Senate and get the aid of a strong GOP candidate’s coattails. It could be that the GOP finally gets its act together and realizes that if they run on a campaign of cutting government waste, fighting corruption, and strong national defense, 2008 can be a much better election for the Republicans than they realize. The Democrats are already doing whatever they can to squander their advantage.
The Democrats shouldn’t be counting their chickens before they hatch, nor should the Republicans give in to despair. A year is a long time in politics, and anything can change. 2008 could be a Democratic sweep, but that is not assured — the Republicans can rediscover their principles and start making a strong stand for their values. The Democrats are running against a man who will not be running for office again, and their message is relentlessly negative. The GOP can win — indeed, they should win. The real question is whether the GOP will stand and fight. If they do, the dynamics of the 2008 race could be very different from where they stand now.