This year's political campaign is likely to metastasize in unpredictable ways between now and November, but right now doom and gloom pervades the GOP. Barack Obama seems on a roll and congressional Republicans are preparing to be rolled: Last month Rep. Tom Davis, who in past years ran the GOP's House campaigns, suggested that Republicans could lose more than 30 seats in November. Other prognosticators are talking about 20.
President George W. Bush bonded with Americans during the days after 9/11 but lost his hold on hearts four years later during the days after Hurricane Katrina struck. Big increases in domestic spending that Bush refused to veto—amazingly, no vetoes in six years—lost him conservative support. And, since Republicans did not clean up government and did not reduce the size of government, voters had little reason to choose them in 2006 and even less in 2008.
Republicans do have one hope, because of an issue that should not be political but sadly is: abortion. Even The Washington Post, almost always a reliable Democratic cheerleader, acknowledged last month the importance of Democrats who are liberal on economic issues but nonetheless vote for GOP presidential candidates for religious/cultural reasons: "If Sen. Barack Obama can't do better with the Casey Democrats, his presidential bid may fare no better than [John] Kerry's."
Casey Democrats are pro-life like the late Pennsylvania governor, Bob Casey. The Post pointed out that West Virginia, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Ohio went for George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004 even though Democrats at the gubernatorial and congressional level have dominated the first four for decades, and have recently done well in the fifth.
Why have Casey Democrats defected at the presidential level? The Post analyzed trends in Pennsylvania and argued that churches are now more important than unions: Casey Democrats are unlikely to vote for someone like Obama who has maintained a strong pro-abortion position. But Obama's secret weapon here is the son of Casey: Senator Bob Casey Jr. is supporting his Illinois colleague and is also co-sponsoring the Pregnant Women Support Act.
The act would, among other things, provide grants to nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations for the purchase of ultrasound equipment to provide free sonograms to pregnant women. Pro-life centers have found a huge change in the attitudes of clients who see their unborn children via sonogram: Beautiful photos and models of unborn children are useful, but a sonogram lets parents see not "a baby" but "my baby."