Is it feeling like 1964 out there? Richard Cohen of the Washington Post thinks so: "Powell walked away, and others will follow -- the second time that a senator from Arizona has led the GOP into the political wilderness."
Barry Goldwater lost one of the great landslides of American history in 1964. But the 2008 numbers aren't at landslide levels, at least not yet. Chuck Todd of MSNBC thinks an Obama popular vote win is a certainty, since Obama does way better in red states than John Kerry did, but a McCain electoral college win is still possible.
But CNN reported yesterday that McCain bailing out of Iowa, New Mexico and Colorodo yesterday. McCain, who's known to be a gambling man, needs to draw to an inside straight, run the table, hit the superfecta... choose your long-odds gambling metaphor, and insert Pennsylvania as your long-shot horse.
Steven Stark at Real Clear Politics argues that, rather than 1964, 2008 more closely resembles 1968 or 1932 -- a year of realignment to be followed four years hence by the landslide:
Parties decisively thrown out of power usually spend the next campaign turning to their fringe, on the theory that "if we had only stuck to our principles, instead of compromising, we would have won." Already we can see numerous Republicans mouthing that mantra. If followed to its conclusion, the result in 2012 will be the same as it was in 1936 when the Republicans nominated Alf Landon after the FDR landslide in 1932, and in 1972 when the Democrats nominated George McGovern after the GOP won the White House in 1968.
Read Iowa's Republican blogs and you'll see that already: the state convention Republican National Committee election where party stalwarts were replaced by the heads of the Iowa Christian Alliance and Iowa Right to Life, the complaints that longshot U.S. Senate Candidate Chris Reed and 1st District congressional nominee Dave Hartsuch are being undercut by the "Romney Party of Iowa," the Iowa Christian Alliance's call for a no vote on all judges unless they get answers on "whether the judge leans to the left or to the right." They're convinced that the road to victory starts with a hard right turn.
If they do that, Stark argues, other forces will come into play:
But beyond that, the Republicans could face an even greater challenge. In times of economic turmoil, American history teaches us that voters usually seek out a populist alternative. The greatest political threat to FDR in the early '30s came not from the Republicans but from his own party's Huey Long, with his "share the wealth" economics.
The Kingfish, of course, was removed from the equation with his 1935 assassination. But Stark -- now that's funny, Long was semi-fictionalized as "Willie Stark" in "All The King's Men" -- Stark argues that the populist of the 2010s may be a revived Pat Buchanan, or fellow talking head Lou Dobbs playing the immigration card.
One could add Ron Paul to that list. Though he's running for re-election to Congress as a Republican, the one-time presidential candidate and internet phenomenon has endorsed Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party for president, and in a post-apocalyptic Republican landscape, Paul and his massive fundraising and contact lists could be a key player.