When it comes to the White House, the Republican Party doesn’t like to lose. After President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, the Democratic Party lost the South and seven of the next ten presidential elections, from 1968 to 2004. Only Jimmy Carter’s post-Watergate triumph in 1976 and Bill Clinton’s three-way victory in 1992 (plus his reelection) broke the GOP’s remarkable 40-year streak. This streak ended Democratic dominance of the White House from 1928 to 1968, in which the Democrats won seven of nine elections, including five straight. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the only Republican president during that period. (BTW America wasn’t so great as people now fondly think it was during his two terms.)
So if Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) loses in 3½ weeks, the Republicans will be looking for people to blame. While McCain may regret his choice of Gov. Sarah Palin (R.-Alaska), the sulking Elephants will train their guns on McCain himself. Too liberal, too environmentalist, too cozy with Democrats, too old. He breezed through the Republican primaries with a sense of entitlement, staying above the fray while Govs. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee (Mass., Ark.) conducted their own primary Smackdown. Much to the Republicans’ delight, Hurricane Ike kept President Bush and Vice President Cheney away from their national convention. A newly energized McCain and surprise nominee Palin enjoyed a big post-convention bounce. But then….Palin did three interviews and looked pretty bad in all three. (After his selection as running mate, Sen. Joe Biden (D.-Del.) did 100 interviews. And Joe the Plumber has done more interviews in one day than Palin since Aug. 29.) Her cute canned responses at the debate didn’t help. And then Wall Street crashed. People panicked, and they drifted away from a nominee who admitted he was weak on economic issues. McCain had initially planned on selecting an economic wizard for v.p. but apparently dropped that idea.
My friends and family know I’m a terrible predictor of politics. I previously had assumed the Republican Party couldn’t possibly find anyone more conservative than the president. Then Romney and Huckabee showed up, and McCain remade himself into a right-wing ideologue. Surprise! If Sen. Barack Obama (D.-Ill.) is elected, the Republicans won’t blame themselves and change their strategy. They’ll blame McCain and, I’m afraid, nominate Romney in 2012. McCain could still make me look ridiculous by winning. Make my day, Senator.