The latest polls portend disaster for the Republican Party tomorrow. The House appears to be gone; the Senate is teetering on the brink.
John Zogby's polling is tracking 15 swing House districts, and he finds Democratic leads in 13. Since Dems need only 15 to take control and will doubtless pick up several not on Zogby's list it seems we're in for several years of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In the Senate, only Tennessee seems to be holding for the Republicans. (There's no justice: Rep. Harold Ford Jr., the Democrat now losing to Republican Bob Corker, is the best of the crop of Democratic challengers).
Other Senate races? Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island are gone for the GOP. Republican fantasies of a rebound in Montana are falling short. It's down to Missouri and Virginia: Democrats need to win both to take control. In these states, pollster Scott Rasmussen has GOP incumbents Jim Talent and George Allen below the 50 percent mark - usually a sign of doom. Rasmussen has Allen tied with Democrat Jim Webb at 49 percent and Democrat Claire McCaskill ahead of Talent 49-48.
Even with those nail-biters too close to call, 2006 will go down in history as one of the worst years for the Republicans.
Why the rout? President Bush let Iraq be the major issue of the election. He could have raised worries about North Korea and homeland security to the same level, but he insisted on focusing on Iraq, making changes in tactics and trying to sell them to a cynical America. Thus, he was left defending a failure rather than trumpeting his key successes.
Plus, the war in Iraq has divided the Republicans the isolationist Pat Buchanans are abandoning an internationalist president.
But the GOP majority itself has to shoulder a lot of the blame for a session of total inaction on tax reform and Social Security, and just small steps on immigration and Medicare reform. With Republicans controlling Congress and the White House, voters were entitled to expect a whole lot more.
In the end, though, it was corruption that did the GOP in. In the '90s, Republican legislators were lean, ascetic and ideological Reagan Republicans. Now they've grown self-indulgent and pecuniary.
Speaker Dennis Hastert's son left his music store in Illinois to move to Washington to become the lobbyist for Google. Hastert himself used his position to fund a highway project that had a lot to do with a big profit on a land deal nearby. Then-Majority Leader Tom Delay put his wife was on his PAC's payroll; she made $300,000. Voters may expect this kind of corruption from Democrats (Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid has four lobbyist sons) but not from Republicans.
First the Republicans lost their virtue; now they'll lose their majority, at least in the House. What's ahead for the next two years? Not new legislation so much as investigations, subpoenas, hearings etc. Washington will be as effectively paralyzed as it was during President Clinton's impeachment trial. And, let us remember that it was in that incubator that Osama bin Laden was able to plan the 9/11 attacks.
We needed a president who could act firmly back then, and we'll need one in the next two years. But we're not going to have one. President Bush will be dodging document requests, defending his administration's integrity and battling each day's sensational headlines supposedly uncovering scandal after scandal.
The Democrats will use their majorities to conduct a two-year campaign for the presidency. Most likely, it will work.