It's a long haul to November. How many wheels can the GOP afford to lose?

The special election win for the Democratic Party in Mississippi this week was the third such loss for a GOP desperately hoping to regain some of the seats they lost in 2006. Cue the pundit-parade!

The Mississippi defeat elicited a Karl Rove GOP State of the Party report disguised as a Wall Street Journal op-ed. He called it like he (and everyone else) saw it--a blow:

The string of defeats should cure Republicans of the habit of simply shouting "liberal! liberal! liberal!" in hopes of winning an election. They need to press a reform agenda full of sharp contrasts with the Democrats.

...Gallup's 2007 report found that fewer voters identify themselves as Republicans now than at any point in the past 20 years – despite the fact that less than a fifth of Americans agree with Mr. Obama's call to rapidly withdraw from Iraq. And while many Americans are concerned about the economy, most are satisfied with their own finances.

As Republican ranks declined, the number of independents and Democrats grew. Has the bottom been reached? It's too early to know.

Over at the Washington Post, Eugene Robinson was doing some corpse-dancing:

The Reagan era in American politics is about to end, and we have George W. Bush to thank for its demise.

...Almost every day, there's more evidence that 2008 is turning into one of those watershed years in American politics--1980, say, or 1968, or even 1932. You can start with the fact that the Democrats are poised to nominate the first African-American major-party candidate for president.

In The New York Times, a report from New Orleans would seem to urge caution in the corpse-dancing department.

While the article laid bare the new threat to "longtime Republican dominance of the South," it also cited the most troubling numbers to come out of the West Virginia primary--that 20 percent of the white voters who contributed to Clinton's trouncing of Obama stated plainly that race was a factor. It's a tricky victory for Clinton to trumpet.

In the Times piece, Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta, "predicts 'the largest black turnout in the history of the United States' this fall if Mr. Obama is the nominee."

The numbers would seem to tip towards Black's prophecy. According to the Times piece: An "increase has been evident in Southern states with presidential primaries this year. In South Carolina, the black vote in the primary more than doubled from 2004, to 295,000, according to exit poll estimates. In Georgia, it rose to 536,000 from 289,000."

Returning to the Mississippi victory, race--or racism--again becomes a mitigating factor:

Many of the votes on Tuesday for [Mississippi Democrat] Mr. Childers — an anti-abortion, pro-gun-rights Democrat — were from whites who will in all likelihood pull the lever for Mr. McCain in November, analysts and voters themselves say.

“Obama, he’s too off-the-wall,” said Chappell Sides, a white Republican-leaning voter in Yalobusha County who said he was preparing to punch the button for Mr. Childers on Tuesday. “Hillary — I thought I hated her, till Obama came along.”

Another ringing endorsement for anybody-but-the-black-candidate.

What does it all mean for the Republicans who will be rolling into town in just a few months, however bandaged and bruised? Can somebody tell me if they have a chance of pulling themselves together? Karl Rove--are you still there?

There you are...

Look, says Rove, "no Congress has fallen as far and as fast as the Nancy Pelosi/Harry Reid-led House and Senate"...

Unlike President Bush, congressional Democrats will be on the ballot this fall, and can do little to improve their lackluster record before then. It must also be disconcerting for Ms. Pelosi that the Democrats' winning formula has meant conceding ground on guns, prayer, partial-birth abortion and other issues that matter to social conservatives.

Both parties face major challenges and have little time to alter the dynamics of the election to their advantage. Recognizing underlying problems and correcting them within a matter of a couple of months is one of the supreme challenges in politics. Whichever party does that fast and well will benefit come November.

Hardly a cheerleader's whoop--and when a guy like Rove puts down the pom poms, there is trouble indeed.

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