This week it was announced that Mormon supporters of Mitt Romney are promoting a day of mass fasting and prayer to seek divine help for the Republican candidate in the upcoming Presidential debates. He’ll need it.
The question is no longer whether Mitt Romney loses the election. The really interesting conundrum is: what will happen to the Republican party when he does?
When Barack Obama’s reelection is confirmed – at an increasingly early hour – on the night of 6 November, it will mean the GOP has managed to secure a popular majority only once in the past quarter of a century. When the Democrats had a similarly disastrous run from 1968 until 1992 they were seen to be flirting with extinction.
Let’s glance a little deeper into the crystal ball. This election was held against the backdrop of a struggling economy. None of the predictions I have seen suggest the global or US economy is likely to still be teetering on the edge of recession in four years' time. Which means that the next Republican candidate is probably going to have to try wresting the White House from the grip of a Democratic party that can point to a strong and sustained record of growth. Given Mitt Romney’s abject failure to capitalise on an economic downturn, how confident are Republicans that their next candidate will prevail when it really is morning again in America?
Peer deeper. If the Republicans were to lose in 2016, they then face the challenge of defeating an incumbent in 2020. By that point no sitting president would have been unseated for the best part of 40 years. Even George W Bush managed to hang on in there. If they can’t defy history, then by 2024 the Republicans will have won the popular vote once in eight elections. At that point they’re not in a political hole: they’re a Saturday Night Live punchline. Or even more of a punchline than usual.
OK, that’s a lot of misfortune-telling. But don’t underestimate the extent of the shock wave this defeat is going to send through Republican ranks.
For one thing, they’re not just going to lose the presidency: it looks like they’re going to lose the Senate as well. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report gives the GOP a 45 per cent chance of retaking the Senate, after reporting it at a 65-70 per cent chance at the beginning of the campaign.
In fact, Republican officials are becoming so worried at what’s happening to their Senate that there are rumours that they’re about to start pulling money and resources from Mitt Romney’s floundering campaign and sending it “down the ticket”.
Make no mistake, Romney is being lined up as the fall guy for this fiasco. And that in turn will create a round of internal bloodletting not seen since St Valentine's Day, 1929.
Incredible as it may seem to most outside observers, Mitt Romney is actually what currently passes for a moderate in today’s Republican Party. Remember, this is a man who had to overcome front-runners including Newt Gingrich, who wanted to build a permanent colony on the moon; Herman Cain, who ran a campaign ad depicting a farmer being eaten alive by his own chickens, and Michelle Bachman, who said Hurricane Irene, which killed 26 people, was God’s way of getting the politicians' attention.
Romney was sold – in the teeth of opposition from a significant section of the Republican grass roots – as the pragmatic choice, the compromise they had to make with ideology to secure victory. And when he loses, those activists are going to go as vengefully crazy as Cain’s Rhode Island Reds.
Anyone who doubts the reaction of the GOP stalwarts to Romney’s impending defeat should bear in mind this single, if chilling, fact. Most of them still think he’s going to win. They genuinely believe the polls are fixed.
They seriously think the surge in support for Obama is nothing more than an "MSM" conspiracy. Some of them clearly even believe the good Lord himself will appear in the spin room at the University of Denver next Wednesday.
And when non of these things turn out to be true, the reaction will be truly terrible to behold. It will be like what happens inside one of those doomsday cults the morning after they all wake up and realise the world hasn’t ended after all. First the shock, then the denial, then finally the anger and retribution.
The pinko, Marxist, Obama-loving side of me can’t wait for the fireworks to begin. But there’s another part of me that’s quite disheartened at the thought of the last few moderate elements of a once great political party vanishing beneath a tidal wave of post-election Tea Party hysteria. The majesty of Lincoln, boundless optimism of Reagan, dignity of McCain – swept from the pages of history by a bunch of moon-colonising, carnivorous chicken-touting, hurricane-summoning fruit loops.
The last thing America and the world needs is President Romney. But when his final election poster has been consigned to the dustbin, America and the world are still going to need a sane and electable Republican party. Sadly, I suspect we won’t be getting one of those for some time.