There are two kinds of Democrats in George W. Bush's America: those who are on the outside and know it, and those who are on the outside and don't. And the peculiar fascination of the Democratic presidential campaign is to watch the interplay between these two groups.
Over the past two weeks, California's new chief executive has made abundantly apparent the kind of governor he means to be. During his abbreviated gubernatorial campaign in late summer, Arnold Schwarzenegger ran as something of a Rorschach test. Voters could choose from among a number of Arnolds: the enviro, the tightwad, the Kennedy-by-marriage, the Friedmanite-by-inclination, the compassionate centrist. By scrupulously avoiding print journalists and limiting his debate appearances to a measly one, Schwarzenegger never had to clarify exactly which Arnold would be calling the shots in the statehouse.
Now we know. It's Conan the Barbarian, in one of his less reflective moods.
The Democrats' scenario for picking up the White House next year looks increasingly like drawing to an inside straight.
That doesn't mean they won't be able to do it. A number of states could fill their hand. But with the continuing rightward gallop of the South, the Democrats are going to have to perform near-perfectly in the swing states of the Midwest.
Like Richard Nixon before him, George W. Bush has waged a war in a way that has polarized the American people -- infuriating Democrats while strengthening his support among conservatives. But as a recent mega-survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press makes clear, the American people were drifting apart -- and the South was going south for the Dems -- even before Bush used his war as a wedge.
Terry McAuliffe doesn't know how to shut it off. The chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), says Democratic strategist Harold Ickes, "is a great salesman; he has this infectious optimism." Even in the face of abjectly awful election outcomes, McAuliffe hasn't been able to tone down that optimism. Nuance seems beyond him. On election night 2002, as all available intelligence pointed to a Democratic debacle, McAuliffe nonetheless told Larry King, "I think it's going to be a very good night for the Democrats."