Is Virginia "up for grabs"? Why?
When the Washington Post and the Staunton News Leader (no permalink) both have the same headline, you know something is up. Both papers today focused on the possibility that the Democrats could wrest away the dominant position which the Republicans have enjoyed for the past generation. It wasn't always that way, of course, and it would take a lot of reading to understand how and why the Republicans came to be the majority party here after a century as insignificant "also-rans." The have a series of maps showing counties that Bush won in 2004, but which Tim Kaine won in the 2005 governor's race. The article listed Staunton as one of the cities with a growing "cosmopolitan" culture (non-NASCAR, presumably) that might be inclined to vote for Obama. (Indeed, the Obama campaign just opened a headquarters in Staunton.) If Obama does somehow win in Virginia, then he almost certainly would have won a substantial majority of Electoral College votes in any case. True, Virginia's demographics are changing, but that doesn't necessarily translate into votes for the Chicago Democrat. I just don't see Virginia as a decisive "bellwether" state.
The very fact that Obama has a shot at winning in the Old Dominion, coupled with the fact that the race for a U.S. senate seat that has been in Republican hands for so long is such a daunting challenge, clearly points to some fundamental problem on the Republican side. As a persistent critic of the party in recent years, albeit one who strives to be a team player as best I can, I have a lot to say about that subject. To boil it down into a quick sound bite, the party is currently under the sway of Bush loyalists who use the hardball tactics of Karl Rove to push aside anyone who doesn't fall into lockstep with their doctrinaire anti-tax, Christian Right agenda. The irony is that Bush is way out of step with mainstream conservatism, leaving many people dazed and confused. Throughout history, whenever a faction of heretics (whether political or religious) comes to power by chastising traditionalists for their lack of faith, a schism typically comes about, and this is the first step toward a major realignment of partisan forces (or church denominations). Much more about that later...
In the mean time, there are lots of other political doings to catch up on...
Dem teeth gnashing
With all the problems in the Republican Party in recent years, you would think the Democrats would take advantage of the situation by shunning their habitual crankiness and adopting a more reasonable tone aimed at attracting undecided voters. Sadly, that isn't the case with a leading Staunton Democrat. Responding to some harmless, ordinary campaign spin and pep talk by "Salem Republicans" about Sam Rasoul's race against Bob Goodlatte, Clifford Garstang made some unseemly parallels between Republicans and terrorists; see Cobalt-6. I'll be the first to admit that Bush has shortcomings as a leader and has made some big policy errors, but calling him the "worst president in history" is way over the top. It's also unfair to suggest, as Garstang does, that Rep. Goodlatte has been parroting the Bush administration's policy positions. Hat tip to David Rexrode.
Bob Novak retires
One of my favorite conservative columnists, Robert Novak, has been diagnosed with brain cancer, and after a "dire prognosis," has decided to retire from his writing career. Last week he announced a temporary leave from his work while he got hospital treatment, but this case seems to be terminal. See Washington Post. As a leading political pundit in Washington, Novak has combined a fierce, unapologetic attitude with a relentless search for facts, having established a vast network of insiders who tip him off. That's why is he one of the best in his field. I join the many thousands of his fans across the country who wish him the very best.
Obama's plane: no flag
Finally, I get tired of reading wild rumors spread by e-mail and low-life blogs, but sometimes they turn out to be true. That's the case in the story about Barack Obama having the American flag removed from the tail of his Boeing 757 aircraft repainted with his campaign logo. This was verified by snopes.com; hat tip to Steve Kijak.