The opportunity for Republicans to hold onto the presidency in 2008 is far better than what conventional punditry would have us believe. But for Republicans to capture this opportunity, they are going to have to stop the destructiveness that has been fomenting inside the party and the mudslinging against their own.
As I wrote in a recent column, year-end highlights from the Pew Research Center show the Republican Party in a state that can be seen as either a glass half empty or half full.
On the half empty part, Pew reports that now "fully half (50 percent) of Americans identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party, compared with just 36 percent who affiliated with the Republican Party."
But the glass half full message is that this reflects disillusionment of Republicans and previous Republican-leaning Independents and not new enthusiasm for Democrats. Favorability ratings for the Democratic Party have been unchanged while it has gained this apparent new support.
I do not believe for a minute that the majority of Americans are anxious to turn this country over to the big government socialism and cultural nihilism of the Democratic Party. But they will just to get change, if Americans of all walks of life do not again feel, as they did under Ronald Reagan's leadership, that the Republican Party represents them.
The growth in government during this recent period in which Republicans have been in control is obscene. It is appalling that since 2000 the number of registered lobbyists in Washington has doubled, from about 17,000 to now over 34,000.
The leading Republican candidates at this point are McCain, Huckabee, and Romney. None are cookie cutter cutouts of the Reagan ideal.
But from a gamut of well-known conservative and Republican personalities, no one is being excoriated like Huckabee.
There may be dissatisfaction with the other candidates, but Huckabee is the only one publicly being charged with John Edwards-like populism, anti-capitalism, of not being a conservative and, from some, being outright called a liberal.
I even heard one talk show journalist say the other day that there are Republicans that have their "knives" out for Huckabee.
But, as of this writing, Huckabee has finished first in the Iowa caucuses, is polling strongly in a wide array of states, and is first in the latest Gallup national poll. This support is coming from voters who identify themselves as conservative.
I would suggest that the hate campaign being conducted against Huckabee, emanating from some whom I know and respect, is just one more symptom of Republicans losing touch with their own principles and base.
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