The GOP’s sense of doom

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By Rick Howell

It’s been a tough political year for Virginia Republican Congressman Tom Davis, and he fears things will only get worse for his party.

For Davis, the personal is political. Last year, his wife, Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis, was beaten for re-election in her bid for another term in the state senate.

It was bad enough that both Davises had to suffer that loss, but it soon became apparent in the weeks after Election Day that Rep. Davis’ trial balloon for a U.S. Senate candidacy was being shot down by the purists in his party.

Davis is a conservative, no doubt. But he casts an occasional vote in Washington that doesn’t fit with the hard core application of conservative ideology. That means, of course, that he is viewed with suspicion for those in his party who just can’t handle any suggestion of moderation.

It was made pretty clear to Davis that most Republicans would prefer the Senate candidacy of former governor Jim Gilmore. So Davis got out, only to be greeted by the candidacy of someone even more extreme than Gilmore, Rep. Bob Marshall.

Don’t expect Davis to get much comfort from the national political scene. In fact, he was quoted in a story in the Washington Post last month that reflects his, and his party’s, growing sense of doom about the likely outcome of the presidential election.

The story was titled, “Republicans see storm clouds gathering.” In it, Davis put together some words that could have come right out of “The Liberal Agenda.”

He said: “It’s no mystery. You have a very unhappy electorate, which is no surprise, with oil at $108 a barrel, stocks down a few thousand points, a war in Iraq with no end in sight and a president who is still very, very unpopular.”

Davis, at the end of that quote, again showed that he could well have been reading this very columnee.when he said of Bush, “He’s just killed the Republican brand.” Yes, he has, and here we have a prominent Virginia Republican making that very case.

Certainly, it is an analysis that is correct. It will be very, very difficult for national Republicans not to pay the price for the sins of the last eight years. Democrats will remind voters of those failures by suggesting to people that a vote for John McCain will be nothing more than a vote for another four years of Bush and Cheney (the Bush/McCain ticket, if you will).

Now, though, the GOP is putting its only hopes for keeping the White House in the continuing battle for the Democratic nomination between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. They are desperately hoping that, somehow, that fight will divide our party and give them the advantage in November.

Don’t bet on it. The Democratic superdelegates aren’t about to let the Clintons, or anyone else, keep this party fighting to the national convention. The stakes are just too high. The nominee of our party will be clear long before anyone goes to the national convention in Denver.

But back to the article. There was another quote, this one from nonpartisan analyst Stuart Rothenberg, who again summed up the wall facing the GOP: “The math is against them. The (political) environment is against them. The money is against them. This is one of those cycles that if you’re a Republican strategist, you just want to go into the bomb shelter.”

Fine, let ‘em go to the bomb shelters. We Democrats will follow them there, pull them out, and give them the whipping they deserve in November. Like 2006, Republicans will reap what they have sown when we all vote this fall.

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, is a member of the Roanoke City Democratic Committee, and can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com