Yes, the campaign has been nationalized. But will the results be? In the House, a good five seats (Bob Ney, Tom DeLay, Don Sherwood, Mark Foley, Curt Weldon) are very likely to be lost to scandals having nothing to do with Bush or Iraq. Of the losing Senate races, only Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania can be said to be dying for the sins of their party.
But the other races, if lost, will be lost largely for local reasons. In Ohio, the state is rocked by an enormous Republican scandal at the gubernatorial level that is taking the whole party down with it, Sen. Mike DeWine included. In Montana, Conrad Burns is in trouble because of his association with Jack Abramoff, not George Bush.
In Virginia, a state that should not even be in play, George Allen has run the worst campaign in living memory, stumbling onto one ethnic land mine after another -- macaca, the Yiddishe mama, N-word allegations. And in New Jersey, the one Democratic seat that could conceivably go the other way and save Senate control for the Republicans, the drag on Sen. Bob Menendez is the very non-national issue of official corruption.
So when the results come in and the Democrats begin to crow, remember this: By historical standards, this is the American people's usual response to entrenched power -- a bracing and chastening contempt. Sixth-year presidents nearly always bring their parties down. (Republican overreaching on the Monica Lewinsky scandal made Clinton's sixth year an exception.) Moreover, this year, the out-of-the-blue Foley scandal interrupted whatever national momentum the Republicans had gained after successfully passing legislation on terrorist interrogation and detention, and thus refocusing attention on their strongest suit, the war on terror.
The election will be a referendum of sorts on Iraq. But it will be registering nothing more than uneasiness and discontent. Had the Democrats offered a coherent alternative to the current policy, one could draw lessons as to what course the country should take. But if either friends or enemies interpret the results as a mandate for giving up, they will be mistaken.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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