Jim Ogonowski’s unsuccessful run in the special election in Massachusetts’ 5th District has garnered a lot of attention from pundits and journalists. However, the significance of the result has been grossly exaggerated and misinterpreted. It is counterintuitive, but if it has any broader meaning Ogonowski’s defeat provides some evidence for a second GOP collapse.
The story of Ogonowski’s “moral victory” leading the way to a GOP revival in ’08 is one that captivates the Republican imagination in several ways. It hints that even some of the more Democratic parts of the Northeast are within reach, offers the spectral hope that 9/11 associations can once again rejuvenate a party that has little or nothing else to offer the country and provides a small, tangible reason to think that all of the overwhelmingly negative national trends are the product of media hype and conventional wisdom. The illusory strength of Ogonowski represents a much desired redemption and a return to the salad days of 2002-04 when Republicans ruled and seemed, at least in their own minds, on the verge of dominating for a generation.
But the past is gone, and the revival is not going to happen, at least not next year. In fact, the more that Republicans persuade themselves that ’06 was some weird aberration, a brief interruption of their rightful rule, the less prepared they will be to fight the very tough election that is coming and the less prepared they will psychologically for the repudiation that it will in all likelihood bring.