It remains to be seen how hard the shit-hammer will come down on the Republicans this Tuesday. They are now busy at work ramping up their 72-hour project. Robo-calls are going out. They’re getting ready to pamphleteer church parking lots. They’re challenging absentee ballots. They’re telling blacks and latinos not to vote if they have parking tickets or cannot provide a picture ID. Some advance work has already been done, making sure lines are longer in Democratic precincts, purging voter rolls, throwing away voter registrations. The GOP will do whatever they can to suppress turnout and turn off independents.

But the shit-hammer is still going to come down. And depending on where it comes down hardest, the make up, lessons, and reactions of our two governing parties will differ. In the rubberstamp Hastert House, it is difficult to label any Republican as a moderate. But they do exist. Some are pro-choice, some are fairly environmentally friendly, some are decent to unions, some are open to stem-cell research and oppose the privitization of Social Security.

As the Washington Post notes, these types of Republicans are especially endangered this election season. It’s quite possible that the Republicans will lose one or both New Hampshire seats, three Connecticut seats, five or six New York seats, a New Jersey seat, five Pennsylvania seats, four Ohio seats, a seat in suburban Chicago, and seats in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Things could even be worse, with seats in Michigan and additional seats in Illinois that are endnagered. If the Republicans are basically purged from the northeast and upper midwest (including red Indiana) it will have repurcussions for the party moving forward. It could lead to an even starker north/south polarization of the country.

But there is something else afoot. The Dems are showing signs of life in the border states and Virginia. Strong Senate challenges in Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia combined with three potential house pick-ups in Kentucky, show that the Dems may be gaining some traction that could translate into electoral votes in 2008.

At the same time, the Dems are showing surprising strength in house races in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho. The Senate race in Montana and the Governor’s race in Idaho are highly competitive and may even be leaning Dem. If the Dems can do in these states what they have done in the Dakotas, namely win state-wide despite the basic conservatism of the population, then we could be seeing the beginnings of a basic realignment of the parties, with the GOP suddenly relegated to the old confederacy. Yet, such a coalition, in order to be viable and to constitute a true ruling majority, would have to be organized upon different principles than the ones that have driven the Democratic Party since 1968. It would be an unexpected result and end to the red/blue deadlock we have seen develop since the end of the Cold War.

Another possibility is that the Dems will not win in these plains and mountain states, or will not be able to translate wins into a realignment. But we may gain a ruling majority through a southwest strategy than includes Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. This is the path that has seemed most obvious and fruitful to me. It basically relies on the changing demographics of these areas as they become more hispanic and filled with more California exiles. In this case, we would not be witnessing as much of a change in the basic makeup and ideology of the Democratic Party. We would prevail mainly through the demographic changes.

As Bush and Rumsfeld are fond of reminding us, the enemy just doesn’t sit there. They have a voice and a strategy too. The GOP will react to these election losses. Their reaction will depend a lot upon where they lose and how big their losses are. The stump of a Republican Party that is left in the House is going to be more conservative than ever. But that will be no comfort to the GOP party organizations in places like New York and Connecticut. They will have to start thinking about how they can change their brand to appeal nationwide again. It’s the mirror image of our struggles to compete in Alabama and South Carolina. They will have to decide whether they still can still muster a ruling majority or gain back northern suburban seats if they don’t soften their message and change their agenda.

They will begin by assigning blame. They will blame Bush, they will blame Cheney and the neo-cons, they will blame Rove, they will blame people like Bob Ney and Duke Cunningham and Mark Foley and Tom DeLay. They will blame the media. They’ll blame profligate spending. They’ll blame Kuo’s book and Pastor Haggard. They’ll blame Bob Woodward and the NIE leaks. They’ll blame Katrina, and the war in Iraq. They’ll blame Terri Schiavo. But none of that will do much to provide them with answers for what to do next.

In 1994, Bill Clinton recognized one thing. He and his party had been soundly rejected. He had to change course. His decisions helped him win a second term, but did nothing to reverse a trend running against his party. Now the GOP has to decide whether they will spend the next two years trying to save Bush’s presidency or if they will spend it redefining themselves and revitalizing their party. Because, regardless of the exact size of the landslide, one thing is for sure. On Tuesday the American people are going to soundly reject the GOP.

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