The cartoon on the right from the front page of a recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine illustrates some of the many reasons why the Republicans are likely to lose control of the House of Representatives in today's elections:
- The growth of pork and sleazy links with lobbyists;
- Suggestions that the GOP has been blind to civil liberties;
- The instant messages from Representative Tom Foley to Congressional page boys;
- Lack of gun control;
- The power of big money.
The fact is that a liberal magazine like Rolling Stone will always object to Republicans on issues like these. In reality the big additional reason why the Republicans are almost certain to lose the House - and possibly the Senate - is Iraq. A recent poll for the Wall Street Journal suggested that only 34% of Americans approved of George W Bush's handling of Iraq. 63% disapproved.
Bush's tax cuts have erased the Republican disadvantage on the economy. In 2004 the economy was one of John Kerry's most potent issues. There was talk then of a 'jobless recovery' but last Friday unemployment fell to 4.4%. The same WSJ poll now finds that the President's handling of the economy splits Americans evenly (48% approving, 48% disapproving).
The extent to which Republicans can stem their losses will depend upon the party's famed 72 hour operation. As the liberal New York Times has correctly said: the last three days will see the Republican organisational muscle attempt to suffocate the intensity of excited Democrat supporters. Core GOP supporters certainly appear much less energised. Fiscal profligacy, the conduct of the Iraq war and lack of progress on issues of importance to social conservatives have all demotivated the base. In yesterday's WSJ Fred Barnes castigated the White House and particularly the Republican House leadership for failing to make progress on social security reform, tax simplification and immigration policy. The GOP leaders are likely to lose their House majority, he concluded, on the back of doing nothing rather than because of a bold legacy of reforms.