- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 31, 2007

The way it stands now, we Republicans are on track to get the thumping of a lifetime. We are about to get spanked hard. I realized that the other day when I saw this bumper sticker: “Is it 2008 yet?”

Democrats are eager for 2008 to come; Republicans are living in fear of its arrival. Because our party is on the rocks. George W. Bush and several years of a Republican congressional majority have just about killed it. And the horizon looks dark and foreboding.

The Democrats have two excellent candidates. We Republicans have two relatively weak candidates.

Though I disagree with them both, Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton are both electric candidates. They excite people, especially Democratic people. They both would be superstars on the international scene.

And they both are liberals.

Though they are each trying to conceal that little fact at this stage of the campaign, the two leading Democratic candidates are dyed-in-the-wool liberals. That’s probably a good thing for a Democratic candidate to be. It certainly would be seen as a good trait by the party’s liberal core.

So the Democrats have two head-turning candidates who believe in things that represent the party’s traditions and who jibe with the beliefs of the party’s most active and vocal members.

If you’re a Democrat, that’s a good thing. We Republicans, on the other hand, face a different prospect.

Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, while each is a man of significant accomplishment, don’t have the marquee appeal of the Democrats. Sen. McCain is clearly a brave patriot, but he was shot down more than 40 years ago and few remember the significance of his service. Mayor Giuliani owes his national reputation as much to “Saturday Night Live” as to anything else. And both are liberals.

On the great issues of our day and our republic, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani have spent their careers closer to the Democratic position than the Republican position. And that’s not so fun for conservatives, who are the party’s base. They face the likely prospect of having a candidate whose philosophy they disagree with.

That’s not good.

Compound that with the fact that the mismanagement of the war has turned the country not only against it, but in large part against the notion of national self-defense. The true Republican position on the war would be to fight it ruthlessly to completion. After this experience, it is far more likely the country will have no stomach for any fight whatsoever. That’s why Iran is posing 10 times the threat Iraq posed and getting one-tenth the flak from the United States.

Responsibility for that can only be attributed to President Bush. He roused the nation’s spirits after September 11, 2001, and led us into war, but somehow has not been successful at maintaining our interest and commitment. In all likelihood, the Iraq war will be a defining issue in 2008 and it won’t break in the Republicans’ favor.

Another reason we suffer is, unlike the Democrats, we have no galvanizing issue or cause. Winning the Congress for Republicans is no longer a draw. We did that already and got nothing out of it. Winning the White House in order to control Supreme Court nominations died the day George W. Bush uttered the name “Harriet Myers.”

There is no real cause, other than fear of Hillary, that even comes close to uniting Republicans.

Democrats, on the other hand, are so seething with hatred for George W. Bush and conservatives — though George W. Bush is not a conservative — that they are highly motivated for the election. They are on fire with zeal in anticipation of 2008. You add it all up and the Democrats are holding most of the cards. We Republicans can’t even seem to get excited or frightened by the contest.

Which is a good way to lose.

As it stands now, 2008 will be a Democratic romp. Only an unexpected and monumental collapse by the Democrats, or an unexpected and monumental surge by the Republicans, could have any chance of shaking things up.

Which is pretty gloomy.

And it means that while the Democrats are looking forward to 2008, the next best chance for Republicans is 2010 or 2012.

And that’s an awful long time.

So long, in fact, you wonder what form the Republican Party will take as it suffers all those years locked out of power.

BOB LONSBERRY

Commentator and talk show host in Rochester, N.Y.

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