Nearly a year after their 2006 wipeout, these are still tough times for the GOP. President Bush and his aides have argued the party must expand beyond white voters. But last night African-American TV personality Tavis Smiley moderated a debate--and the leading republican candidates didn't show up.
Those who did teed off on them, drawing fierce criticism from the long shot challengers who did. Mike Huckabee called it an embarrassment; Sam Brownback a disgrace.
Meantime, the Senate was passing a popular expansion of children's health care coverage with solid bipartisan support. But president bush has threatened to veto that "S-CHIP" bill. The really bad news: a recent NBC-WSJ poll showed Republicans are in trouble on both health care and fiscal issues. The democratic advantage is 36 percentage points on health care, 25 points on cutting the deficit, 16 points on controlling spending, and 9 points on taxes.
What does that add up to? Independent political analyst Rhodes Cook says in Midwestern battleground states, "the marketability of the republican brand has reached its lowest point in a generation."
Republicans will get a chance to do something about that on Oct. 9th in Dearborn, Michigan. That's the date of the CNBC-Wall Street Journal debate--when every major Republican candidate will be there. That includes, for his first debate of the campaign, late-starting candidate Fred Thompson. I will be one of the panelists asking questions.