It’s mid-October, which means the candidates are down to their final days to find ways to raise their own stock with the voters and cut the legs out from under their opponents. It also means plenty of surprises and scandals – and we’ve certainly had a few.
From Bob Woodward’s partisan book released in the last month of the campaign for maximum sales and political damage, to Mark Foley’s disgusting cyber-creepiness, to North Korea’s nuclear game of chicken, the 2006 midterm election results are still completely unpredictable. Recent polling has pundits guessing anywhere between a 5 and 50 seat gain for the Democrats. Not exactly definitive.
Additional polling shows troublesome evidence that evangelicals – probably the Republicans most loyal voters – are not as enamored with Republicans as they once were.
Last week, the Washington Post reported on the disenchantment:
A nationwide poll of 1,500 registered voters released yesterday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 57 percent of white evangelicals are inclined to vote for Republican congressional candidates in the midterm elections, a 21-point drop in support among this critical part of the GOP base.
Even before the Foley scandal, the portion of white evangelicals with a "favorable" impression of the Republican Party had fallen sharply this year, from 63 percent to 54 percent, according to Pew polls.
In the latest survey, taken in the last 10 days of September and the first four days of October, the percentage of evangelicals who think that Republicans govern "in a more honest and ethical way" than Democrats has plunged to 42 percent, from 55 percent at the start of the year.
There’s no doubt about it. Republicans have fallen far short of our dreams of smaller government and a culture reflective of our common values, but the alternative should be enough to shake us from our idealism.
On issues both overseas and here at home, Republicans - and more importantly, conservatives - have a logical choice.
Two stories in particular seem to be hurting Republicans right now because they are turning off usually-loyal conservatives: the war in Iraq and Mark Foley.
The prospect of Democrats in charge of America’s foreign policy should cause all of us great angst. As far as I can tell, the Democrats’ plan for Iraq is somewhere between increasing the troop levels in Iraq and completely abandoning Iraq as we cut and run from our obligation to security in the region, leaving Iraq as a playground for terrorists. I’m simply not sure what their plan is, and we simply can’t replace one plan with no plan.
Is that a risk we’re willing to take?
The Mark Foley scandal is another area where the conventional wisdom is wrong. Many in the media are claiming that conservatives and evangelicals are being turned off by Republicans because of their association with Foley and their handling of the scandal. Some conservatives may be feeling like they just can’t support “the party of Mark Foley,” and that seems to be the Democrats’ best chance of success next month. The reality is quite the opposite. While Mark Foley might have been a believer in tax cuts and a strong defense, he was certainly not living a Republican or conservative lifestyle.
In fact, Foley’s lifestyle more closely resembled one that the ACLU might defend. It is liberals who are constantly preaching tolerance of everybody and everything under the sun.
Some Republicans have decided that the best strategy might be a quasi-suicide-turned-resurrection whereby Republicans lose Congress in 2006 so they can retain the White House in 2008. But this is no time to go wobbly. With less than thirty days left before Election Day, it’s not time to sulk over a legislative failure here and there. It’s time to pick a horse and place our bets.
There’s no question about it: Control of Congress is at stake in this election.
Will you really feel better the morning after with Democrats and their allies in charge?