GOP Gets Desperate, While Clinton, Gore, Decide

September Notes....

This is not the anniversary the Republicans would have liked. People are not spending it reminding themselves how much safer they feel because George W. Bush is president. The traditional Republican lead on national security has evaporated, along with their advantages on every other measure of leadership.

This is not like 2004, when the Republicans couldn’t schedule their convention close enough to September 11.

In terms of time or location.

What a difference two years makes.

But in politics you don’t look back, not when you’re in an election year. For Republicans, there is only one question at this point: What can you do in six weeks to rescue the troops?

Make no mistake. These are desperate times for Republicans. They stand on the verge of losing both Houses of Congress. Americans are disgusted both with the administration and with Congress, with Republicans coming and going. You can’t sit at the helm, control all three branches of power, and then look around at a country that feels it’s headed in the wrong direction and avoid responsibility.

What you need in these circumstances is to change the subject.

Republicans need an October surprise.

But knowing that, Democrats will be determined to immunize themselves against an October surprise saying over and over how badly Republicans need it, so that anything that does happen in October becomes suspect from the start.

So what Republicans will do is unleash a barrage of negative ads. Put on your raincoat. Mud everywhere. Whatever they can find. Garbage. Whatever works. New lows. It’s the only option.

Everyone will be shocked and chagrined, and deeply troubled, and all of that. The worst year ever, people will say. It’s all that can happen. There’s nothing positive to say. Early reports suggest the National Campaign Committee may go 10-1 negative. What else is new?

Republicans are better off pushing the negative buttons, even/especially at the cost of depressing turnout, in the hopes that their voters will be, as they have traditionally been, more loyal. But this time? I wouldn’t be so sure….

I told you so.

I hate to say it, and on any other subject I wouldn’t. But…. Did you see that Al Gore “hasn’t ruled out” his presidential run. Now I really don’t know if he’ll run or not, but there he is in Sydney, Australia of all places, and he just can’t resist playing a card or two.

You don’t think he likes all that attention, do you?

Or is it possible we wouldn’t be reading about the opening of his film in Sydney otherwise….

That is the beauty of running for president. Or even thinking of running for president. Then again, the minute you say no…

Speaking of attention, a story in a London paper last week quoted so-called “friends” of Sen. Hillary Clinton who speculated that she wouldn’t run for president, and even that she had already decided that. Can you imagine anything more ridiculous?

Now, not one of these people in the story was actually named, which didn’t stop the paper from running it – or stop it from getting attention, which is a measure of Hillary-mania, if nothing else.

And there is no particular reason to think it’s true. There are, in fact, all those people toiling away on a national (excuse me, Senate) campaign who would be very distressed to hear that their boss was never going to run outside New York. Seriously. I have no doubt that after the Senate election is over, she will go through a very reasonable, Hillary-like formal process of considering whether she should run, which is an entirely appropriate thing to do…. And that barring something entirely unpredictable, unforeseeable, and absolutely un-Clinton-like, the conclusion would be…if there’s any chance you could win, and there certainly would be, you go for it.

Who wouldn’t?

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Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission.

Estrich's books include "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System," "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders," "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women" and "Sex & Power," currently a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the FOX News Channel.

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