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Adam Nagourney: First Democratic Optimism, then GOP Pessimism

The Times' idea of balance: Both sides think Democrats are in good shape for 2008.

Aweek after he displayed Democratic optimismon the Times' front page, Wednesday's front-page piece from chief political reporter Adam Nagourney "balanced" things out with Republican pessimism - "Some G.O.P. Express Worry Over '08 Hopes."


After ignoring them in hisprevious piece on the 2008 presidential race, Nagourney today mentioned in passing those inconvenient early polls showing that, for all the angst over GOP prospects, leading Republican candidates Sen. John McCain and Rudy Giuliani actually have leads over Democrats Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama. Yet Nagourney quickly dismissed the findingswith the phrase "But those notes of optimism did not erase the overall anxiety pervading the interviews."


"Republican leaders across the country say they are growing increasingly anxious about their party's chances of holding the White House, citing public dissatisfaction with President Bush, the political fallout from the war in Iraq and the problems their leading presidential candidates are having generating enthusiasm among conservative voters."


[...]


"Several Republicans also said they took hope from the fact that hypothetical polls matching the party's leading presidential contenders with the main Democratic presidential contenders - Mr. McCain and Mr. Giuliani of New York versus Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Senator Barack Obama of Illinois - showed the Republicans with an edge, even as so-called generic polls showed Americans were significantly more likely to say they would vote for an unnamed Democrat over an unnamed Republican next year.


"But those notes of optimism did not erase the overall anxiety pervading the interviews."


The populiarity of the "unnamed Democrat" is not a new phenomenon - he/she would have beaten Bush in 2004. Perhaps the next Democratic nominee should wear a bagoverhis/her head.


"Still, even the most optimistic Republican officials said they thought Democrats were in a stronger position in a presidential race now than at any other time since 1996. They noted polls showing that an increasing number of Americans were calling themselves Democrats, as well as the fund-raising numbers from the first-quarter that showed the Democrats' presidential field had raised $78 million, about $27 million more than the Republicans.


"Republican leaders pointed to a number of factors for the Republican malaise, including the perception that Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Romney and Mr. McCain were awkwardly altering their positions to appeal to conservative voters, and a general exhaustion that comes after having Republicans in power for more than eight years."


[...]


"Alan K. Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, said the party's presidential candidates were being whipsawed as they tried to appeal to conservative voters who have a history of strong views on issues like abortion and gay rights. 'These tests are destroying the Republican Party,' Mr. Simpson said."


Simpson is a social liberal who has been saying that for years, so it's hardly news.


Nagourney concluded with GOP gloom.


"Republican leaders said they saw little chance the party could retain the White House if conditions in Iraq did not improve noticeably over the next year.


"'The war in Iraq and public opposition to it has put a pall on Republicans,"' said John C. Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri.


"Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, said, 'As long as the war appears not to be doing well, it's going to hurt Republicans.'


"The biggest problem, several Republicans said, is the disparity between the level of enthusiasm on display among Democrats and that on the Republican side."