George Allen is sitting at home, "shell-shocked" and despondent. Bill Frist has all but vanished into lame-duck irrelevance. John McCain looked like a shell of his former self Tuesday night, and Rush Limbaugh spent a good chunk of his show Thursday blaming the once and future presidential candidate for the GOP's Election Day catastrophe.
How are things looking for 2008, fellas?
At their usual Wednesday gathering this week, conservative leaders said the Republicans can come roaring back in two years if they just start acting like Republicans again. "Democrats will be standing there, naked to the winds, having been forced by Nancy Pelosi to vote for tax increases, gun control and impeaching the president," Grover Norquist tells the Los Angeles Times. The Iraq war will look different than it does today, Norquist says, and George W. Bush won't be on the ballot again.
Norquist is right about at least one of those things, but that just leads to the next question: Who will be on the ballot for the GOP in 2008?
It would seem that Allen has run himself out of the race. To the extent that voters just sent a major message about their discontent with Congress, Frist -- the man who has been presiding over it all as Senate majority leader -- seems like less of a credible candidate than he ever did. And while we still think that McCain would have a shot at winning in a walk if he makes it to the general election in 2008, Limbaugh's comments -- McCain robbed Republicans of the momentum they needed for 2006 by undercutting Bush on the war, on torture and on judges -- underscore how hard it will be for him to get there.
Who's left? We've been seeing a lot of Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback on TV over the last few days, and Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel would be a logical choice if the GOP wanted a senator who's not John McCain but who could credibly claim some independence from the Bush administration. But if the primaries were to begin today, we'd think the Republicans would be looking for someone with a little more distance from what's gone wrong over the past six years. That's not Condoleezza Rice. But hello, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Good morning, George Pataki and Rudy Giuliani. And what do you have to say for yourself, Newt Gingrich?
Well, quite a lot, actually. Appearing at a medical forum in Atlanta Thursday, Gingrich -- who knows a thing or two about wave elections -- blamed Tuesday's electoral outcome on the "four Cs": a lack of competence and candor, too much corruption and bad advice from consultants.
But as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, Gingrich reserved most of his ire for the man he would replace at the White House. "If the president had decided to replace Secretary Rumsfeld, he should have told us two weeks ago," Gingrich said. "I think that we would today control the Senate and probably have 10 to 15 more House seats."
Gingrich said that he found Bush's explanation for the timing of the Rumsfeld announcement "very disturbing," and he accused the president of not being straight with the American people. "It's inappropriate to cleverly come out the day after an election to do something we were told before the election would not be done," Gingrich said. "I think the timing was exactly backwards and I hope the president will rethink how he engages the American people and how he communicates with candor."