Entering the weekend before his midterms, George Bush and his party appear fated to lose the House they have held for a dozen years. The Senate is on a knife's edge.
The latest polls continue to show that by 52 percent to 37 percent Americans wish to see a Democratic takeover. Approval of Congress has never been lower. Americans think the nation is on the wrong track. Support for the war in Iraq has collapsed to a third of the nation.
What went wrong? Certainly, on three traditional Republican issues -- strong military, conservative judges and lower taxes -- the GOP remains America's Party.
How do we know? Because no Democrat in a close race is calling, Mondale-like, for higher taxes or attacking Bush for elevating judges John Roberts and Sam Alito to the Supreme Court. In the tight Senate races in Tennessee and Virginia, Democratic nominees Harold Ford and Jim Webb are outspokenly pro-defense.
On immigration, where Bush aligns with Kennedy-McCain, his party has abandoned him. The Republican House stands for border security, no amnesty and no new guest-worker program. Nor is this a losing issue. Even Hillary Clinton voted for 700 miles of security fence on the Mexican border.
What, then, are the causes of Republican malaise?
First is the perception the GOP is no longer a virtuous party that seeks to live up to principles and a high standard of public ethics. The adventures of the Abramoff Gang, Mark Foley, Duke Cunningham and his poker-party pals, of pork barrel and bridges to nowhere have demoralized the Republican base and disgusted Middle America. There is a feeling, even on the Right, that if this crowd is run out of Dodge, its expulsion will not be unwarranted.
Second, while the macro economy seems to be firing on all eight cylinders -- the Dow has risen above 12,000, and the Misery Index of inflation plus unemployment has fallen to the lowest levels in modern times -- not all Americans are participating in the prosperity.
Employment in health care has grown by almost 2 million, but some 3 million manufacturing jobs have vanished. There has been a population explosion among billionaires, but the real median wage of a male worker has not risen in decades. The daily closure of factories here, as more and more Chinese goods show up at Wal-Mart, points to inescapable consequences: The price of the GOP's free-trade-uber-alles ideology is the loss of the Reagan Democrats.
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