The latest national polls reported by Real Clear Politics have Obama leading by four points. The Gallup poll has Obama leading by six and Fox has Obama up 5. RCP has changed the status of Ohio from battleground to leans Obama. The change gives Obama a projected 265 electoral votes to 191 for Romney and reduces the number of battleground states to seven. No Republican president has ever won without Ohio and if this scenario holds true, Romney would have to win all of the other swing states in order to get to the required 270 electoral votes.
On Monday, Bill O’Reilly dedicated a segment of The O'Reilly Factor to poll science. He had Karl “The Architect” Rove explain the science of polling and go through countless scenarios of how Romney might win without Ohio. It was a hollow attempt at convincing the conservative viewing audience that all was not lost, but it came across as the latest indication of a campaign that is tethering on the edge.
Romney’s poll numbers have Republican strategists wondering what a loss in November would mean to the party. They fear that a Romney loss would set off a war for control in the Republican Party. Conservative columnist David Frum says “there bloody well ought to be a GOP civil war if Romney loses this thing.” The American Conservative columnist Rod Dreher agrees, he says that “there ought to be some very serious reckoning within the party if the Republicans lose the presidency this year.”
The internal squabbling would be fierce, but one thing is for sure, the party would continue to move right. The establishment would argue that the intransigence of the Tea Party fiscal conservatives had been soundly rejected by the American people. The fiscal conservatives would argue that it was the social conservatives dogged pursuit to roll back women’s reproductive rights, highlighted by their inability to remove national embarrassment Todd Akin from the Missouri senatorial race. The far right “true conservatives” would argue that Romney was a moderate republican “pig with lipstick” and his attempts at being a “severe conservative” were unconvincing and rang hollow. The libertarian wing would say “I told you so.” The establishment wing would effectively be wiped out.
It is not clear which faction would emerge as the leader nor is it clear who would be the favorite son. . According to long standing republican line of succession de facto policy Paul Ryan, as the VP nominee would automatically be considered the next in line. However, rising Tea Party star Marco Rubio would receive consideration and moderates like Chris Christie would have the support of the establishment. A Mitch Daniels candidacy would challenge Paul Ryan’s claim to be the “intellectual leader of the party” Gary Johnson and Rand Paul no doubt would jockey for the libertarian vote.
For the party to recover it will first have to rectify the mistakes. The first mistake is to effectively deal with Romney’s characterization of 47% of the population as moochers and the zeal with which its pundits and supporters agreed with this assessment. Slate noted, “The majority of the country believes the government does too much. So there the Republicans should have the winning argument. But not when its candidate frames 47% of the electorate as moochers and victims. When the party of lower taxes is arguing that taxes should be increased on some people, it might be a moment to call a timeout and get everyone to agree on the playbook.”
The second mistake is the mistreatment of the libertarian wing. Libertarians will not forget the convention, the attempt to remove their candidate from the ballots and the refusal to include any of their issues in the platform. The party’s future would be in serious jeopardy if Libertarians are galvanized to bolt and form a viable third party.
Finally, the party will have to regain its compassion for the American people. The party which once fought so hard against its negative image of being the party for the businessman now appears to have gone even further and is the party of “only” businessmen.
Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks has already taken a shot across the bow. Brooks argues that the Republican Party has lost contact with the American people. He says, “The Republican Party has abandoned half of its intellectual ammunition. It appeals to people as potential business owners, but not as parents, neighbors and citizens.”
Brooks says today’s conservatives are hostile towards government. Brooks believes Republicans only speak in terms of formulas that they no longer speak “in the language of social order.” According to Brooks these formulas "make sense according to free-market ideology, but oversimplify the real world."