With a month to go, the election is looking bleak for us conservatives. The current economic crisis should, by rights, hurt the Democrats, who bear far more responsibility for causing it than the Republicans. But the public doesn’t understand that, and blames anything bad on the party that controls the White House, however irrational that may be. And, of course, the television networks and newspapers aren’t going out of their way to enlighten the voters.
Today the McCain campaign reportedly pulled out of Michigan, a state the GOP once had some hope of winning. Rasmussen Reports shows Obama with a seven-point lead, his biggest ever. Rasmussen also finds that the Democrats’ edge in the generic Congressional ballot, which had been shrinking, is expanding again, up to nine points today.
So the news is very bad. It isn’t clear whether there is anything the Republicans can do to turn the situation around; bad news of any sort benefits the Democrats, and there isn’t enough time left for good news to matter.
In what strikes me as a deep irony, a plurality of Americans, for the first time in years, believe that history will judge the Iraq war a success. A year ago, if we had foreseen that shift in opinion, we would have assumed the Republicans would be well positioned for the election, especially if the Democrats nominated a candidate who made his name by opposing the war. In fact, though, the war has dropped off the map as an issue.
If there is a way for the Republicans to come back, it pretty much has to start tonight with a strong performance by Governor Palin. In the first Presidential debate, Obama benefited greatly just by coming across as adequate. To some degree, the same applies to Palin; if she performs decently, it will alleviate many concerns about her experience. The ticket won’t get the same boost, of course, but a sharp performance tonight might stop the bleeding and set the stage for a comeback over the next few weeks.
One difference is that the news media were happy to report positively on Obama’s performance last week, whereas if Palin makes the slightest mistake (or alleged mistake) it will dominate coverage of the event. That’s how it goes when you’re a Republican being reviewed by a Democratic press, and it’s one of the big reasons why this election season has been so uphill for the Republicans.
PAUL adds: The strange thing about pulling out of Michigan is that, according to the publicly available polls, McCain’s deficit there is only a little larger than his deficit nationally. For example, the latest Michigan poll has Obama up by 10 percentage points, while the latest RCP average has him up by almost 7 points. Clearly, if Obama wins nationally by 7 points, he’ll carry Michigan. But shouldn’t the McCain campaign base its state-by-state thinking on the assumption that McCain will be competitive nationally, since that’s the only scenario under which he can be elected in any event?
The McCain camp must believe that it can’t win the economic argument and, as a result, can’t win Michigan even in a close race. Unfortunately, if McCain can’t at least hold his own in the economic argument, the race may not be particularly close.