Starting Gate: The GOP's Last Refuge?

Yesterday, John McCain unveiled a reinvigorated stump speech that revived his "fighter" theme from the Republican convention last month. Today, he'll roll out some new economic proposals aimed at helping sooth the hits workers, homeowners and investors have suffered in recent months. Neither appears to be the kind of thing that's going to alter a race that seems to be slipping away from the Republican nominee.

There is one last-gasp argument that appears to be emerging today, not from the McCain campaign, that is likely to be heard more and more in the coming days and weeks. It's one that has been mentioned but rarely forwarded as an argument in favor of McCain's candidacy. It's the checks-and-balances theory.

Republicans have long known that any hopes of regaining control of either branch Congress was going to be almost impossible. The numbers were against them regardless of the broader political environment. Now the only question is how large will the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate be? Add an Obama victory and Republicans are staring down the barrel of complete and total Democratic rule.

Conservative columnist Fred Barnes begins imagining what that scenario could mean. "If this scenario unfolds," he writes in the Weekly Standard, "Washington would become a solidly liberal town again for the first time in decades. And the prospects of passing the liberal agenda--nearly all of it--would be bright. Enacting major parts of it would be even brighter. You can forget about bipartisanship."

On the op-ed page of the New York Times, David Brooks agrees. "What we're going to see, in short, is the Gingrich revolution in reverse and on steroids," he writes. "There will be a big increase in spending and deficits. In normal times, moderates could have restrained the zeal on the left. In an economic crisis, not a chance. The over-reach is coming. The backlash is next."

All that stands between the coming Democratic rule and conservatives is John McCain. A Republican president could, the argument goes, serve as a brake on one-party rule, keeping that "over-reach" from coming. While there's little evidence that voters prefer divided government, it's hard to argue with election results which tend to produce it in modern times. When Democrats gained control in 1992, they promptly lost it in a Republican tidal wave in 1994. Republicans assumed all control in 2000 and Democrats took back Congress in 2006.

Unfortunately for Republicans, it's not the kind of campaign theme that fits well on a bumper sticker. Stop A Democratic Majority, Vote McCain, isn't a slogan that's going to turn around the race. If that becomes the rallying cry, it's an indication of just how narrow their window of opportunity has become.

Around The Track

  • A new round of Quinnipiac University polls shows Obama leading in the battleground states of Colorado (52 percent to 43 percent), Michigan (54 percent to 38 percent), Minnesota (51 percent to 40 percent) and Wisconsin (54 percent to 37 percent).
  • The Boston Globe endorses Barack Obama.
  • Sarah Palin will stump in Indiana on Friday, the latest in a series of must-win states where the GOP nominee has campaigned.
  • The RNC is considering spending $5 million to help GOP Senate candidates in an effort to prevent Democrats from winning a filibuster-proof majority, the Politico reports.