As gloomy as liberals can sometimes be, it's been a long time since there was a presidential election in which Democrats actually thought their presidential candidate was certain to lose. The last one would have to be 1984, and before that, 1972. But in the 28 years since Ronald Reagan got re-elected, there hasn't been a Democrat who has been totally blown out of the water, an election in which even his own partisans thought he had little or no chance. The closest would have been Michael Dukakis, who famously had a 17-point lead after his convention, even if he did end up losing by a healthy seven-point margin.
But if you listen to Joe Scarborough, Republicans have basically given up on winning in November. He's not the first person to say it (George Will suggested a month ago that the time to give up on the presidential race was coming), but we haven't heard anyone of his prominence say so vociferously that Republicans are all thinking this one's over, as Scarborough did on today's "Morning Joe":
"Nobody thinks Romney's going to win. Let's just be honest. Can we just say this for everybody at home? Let me just say this for everybody at home. The Republican establishment -- I've yet to meet a single person in the Republican establishment that thinks Mitt Romney is going to win the general election this year. They won't say it on TV because they've got to go on TV and they don't want people writing them nasty emails. I obviously don't care. But I have yet to meet anybody in the Republican establishment that worked for George W. Bush, that works in the Republican congress, that worked for Ronald Reagan that thinks Mitt Romney is going to win the general election."
We should remember that the brand Scarborough has built is as a rebellious Republican, an ideological conservative but straight-talking guy who isn't afraid to tell it like it is, upset the apple cart, annoy his own party, and so on. Saying things like this helps him enhance that brand. But that doesn't mean he isn't telling the truth.
So it's possible that 2012 could be the third presidential election just in the last 16 years in which Republicans knew they had basically no chance of winning. Nobody ever thought Bob Dole had much of a shot to beat Bill Clinton, but it was his turn and making him the nominee seemed like the right thing to do after a lifetime of service to the Republican party. He lost by eight and a half points, in an election that was never close. In 2008 the polls were a lot tighter for much of the race, but in the end Barack Obama spanked John McCain by seven points.
It's still quite early, and the election will have ups and downs. I'd even guess that at some point, Romney will actually pull ahead in tracking polls. But what's interesting here is Scarborough's contention that the Republican establishment has already given up. That can't be good for Mitt.