But do not underestimate the temptation, to which the intense cohorts on Democratic left and Republican right are susceptible, to kick over their party's furniture for the fun of it. The pleasures of moral purity are available to those who fancy themselves a small church militant in an unconverted world.
The multiplication of political media has infused politics with an extraordinary volatility. For example, in 2006, when Rep. Mark Foley, the Florida Republican, was incinerated in the House page scandal, his national name recognition went from essentially zero to the high 80s in six days.
Furthermore, increased volatility is guaranteed by the fact that Republicans are defending 22 of the 34 Senate seats to be contested in 2008. At least seven of the 22 are vulnerable -- in Virginia, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Colorado, Oregon and now New Mexico because of last week's announcement that Pete Domenici is retiring after six terms. None of the 12 Democratic seats is as vulnerable.
If the election were today, Democrats probably would gain at least a dozen House seats. Then in 2010 there will be the census, followed by redistricting. So if the weakness of the national Republican brand seeps down the ballot to state legislative candidates the Republicans' trek back to majority status will be steep.
Still, Republican leaders, noting that this remains a center-right country and that theirs is the center-right party, rejoice that some freshman Democrats who are not secure in their seats have had to cast awkward votes. For example, of the 61 Democrats who represent House districts that George W. Bush carried in 2004, 21 are freshmen, all of whom did organized labor's bidding by voting for the "card check" process of organizing companies, which abolishes workers' right to a secret ballot. That pleases unions but horrifies, and mobilizes, small-business owners.
The Republicans' task is to delicately remind voters that the multiplication of such legislation arises from ... well, as Adam Smith wrote: "It is not the multitude of ale-houses ... that occasions a general disposition to drunkenness among the common people; but that disposition arising from other causes necessarily gives employment to a multitude of ale-houses."
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