With President Bush reaching new lows in national polls, Christian conservatives threatening to bolt if Rudy is the nominee and the Iraq war bleeding support in Middle America, Republicans are in a funk about 2008.
And understandably and deservedly so.
The war, a product of hubris, born of the smashing triumph in Afghanistan, and ideology, a Wilsonian vision of democratizing the Middle East, has been a disaster for the country, and the party that plunged us into it. And the Bush amnesty for illegal aliens ignited a rebellion that dealt the establishment its worst thrashing in many moons.
Free trade has cost 3 million manufacturing jobs, sent the dollar plunging to peso levels, denuded America of productive capacity and left us dependent on Chinese loans to finance $800 billion trade deficits.
So, are Republicans doomed to defeat in 2008? By no means.
For the performance of the Congress and Democratic field of presidential hopefuls should be troubling to any Democrat with visions of winning back the White House.
Congress has failed to end U.S. involvement in Iraq, or to contain the surge, or impose its formula for fighting the war, leaving the party base in sputtering, exasperated, impotent rage.
Why has Congress failed? Because it is terrified of the possible consequences of imposing its policy. Congress fears Bush may be right -- that a rapid troop withdrawal risks a strategic disaster and humanitarian catastrophe. Having been lacerated for the loss of Eastern Europe to Stalin, of China to Mao, and of Southeast Asia to Hanoi, they desperately do not want to be held responsible for losing Iraq to Islamic radicalism.
On social and cultural issues, Democrats seems to have learned nothing.
In the last presidential debate, at Dartmouth, Bill Richardson said that, as president, he would refuse the honorary chairmanship of the Boy Scouts. Why? Well, the Boy Scouts does not allow homosexual scoutmasters to take Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts on camping trips.
All the Democratic candidates but Hillary favored a federal law banning smoking in public places. Would that mean U.S. attorneys prosecuting bartenders for letting patrons puff away. Are Democrats going to take the nanny state national? Do they think Middle America is Mike Bloomberg's Manhattan?
All the Democratic candidates except Dennis Kucinich favored the Federal requirement that states outlaw drinking by 18-year-olds, which means high school kids who join the Marines can't have a night of beer with their buddies before heading to Anbar.
All the Democratic front-runners favored second-graders being read stories in school about a homosexual marriage between a pair of princes. This would result in the absurdity of 6-year-olds, forbidden by the U.S. Supreme Court from learning about God, Adam and Eve in school, being introduced to sexual unions between Adam and Steve. America is just not that far down that road.
Following the debate, Hillary Clinton proposed giving a $5,000 "baby bond" to every child born in the United States. This would add $20 billion to federal spending yearly, with the main beneficiary being illegal aliens who average more than three babies each.
The message that would go out to the world: If you're pregnant, get a visa and fly to the United States -- or, if you can't get a visa, get across the Mexican border. Because if your baby is born here, you hit the jackpot. The baby is an automatic U.S. citizen and entitled to a $5,000 Hillary "baby bond" you can take back to Mexico, if the feds catch you and boot you out.
In short, Democrats sense their vulnerability on the war and security issue, which is why they are frustrated and floundering in Congress and stiffing the antiwar base of the party. And they remain vulnerable on social and cultural issues, if Republicans have the nerve to hammer them, as Bush's father did in that miraculous summer of 1988, when he turned a 17-point deficit to Michael Dukakis on Aug. 1 into an eight-point lead by Labor Day that he never lost.
If Barack is the Democratic nominee, nervousness over a president three years out of the Illinois legislature will play to the GOP's advantage in wartime. Hillary as the nominee, with 45 percent of the country saying it would never vote for her and the nation given eight months to reflect on whether they want to watch a four-year rerun of the Bill and Hillary Show, would also work to GOP advantage.
Republicans may not have The Gipper around to unite them, but they do have Hillary, which is an excellent second best.
Moreover, of the front-running Republican candidates, all are fresher than Hillary. All could campaign as a "change agent" in the current cliche. But they would need to jettison the Bush legacy: open borders, globalism, interventionism and Big Government Conservatism.
While the battleground states will be the same, the battleground constituency in 2008 is independents and Democrats earning $25,000 to $50,000. Before Bush embraced neoconservatism, they used to be known as Reagan Democrats. Though alienated, they are not yet lost.