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The Republican bigwigs aren't afraid of the 2008 elections.  No, not at all.

They're terrified of them. 

And they have good reason to be.

How terrified are they?  Follow me over the hill and through the dale to find out. 

First off, the Republicans hitched their wagons to George W. Bush's star, and it's far, far too late for them to try to distance themselves from him, even if their base would allow it.  They're spot-welded to him and he's this gigantic 20-ton kryptonite boat anchor that is sending them rapidly to the bottom of the Marianas Trench, and they can't do a thing to stop it, so they're screeching all the way down — and polls like this one aren't helping their mood any. 

We're talking fear-and-loathing-in-the-bunker time, kiddies.  If you've noticed that they seem even more unhinged than usual , that's because they are.  They're so scared, they're even attacking Al Gore — even though Gore's not running for elective office and probably never will again.

Second off, it's becoming ever-more-obvious that the Republican presidential bench is, to put it kindly, not particularly deep – especially when compared to that of the Democrats.   

How bad off are they?  The GOP's best candidate is Chuck Hagel — and not coincidentally, he's the only one with so much as a smidgen of credibility and independence with regard to Iraq — and he will never make it to the first set of primaries, precisely because of his relative independence compared to the rest of the we-stand-behind-Bush field.  (See, the idiocy that's endemic to Republican presidential and vice-presidential candidates such as Reagan, both Bushes and Quayle is not a bug, but a feature — because they're not supposed to lead, but to meekly follow the dictates of their corporate patrons.  But I digress.)

Having dispensed of the one man who could actually win for the GOP in 2008, let's look at the non-Hagels on the GOP side. 

Rudy Giuliani?  Mr. Three-Wives-And-Counting?  Heh.  As a recently-unearthed document from Mitt Romney's campaign states, the Republicans will be hard put to use the Hillary's-an-eeevul-librul scare tactic if Rudy's the nominee as they're both from New York and his stances on certain social issues, such as gays, may even be more liberal than hers.  And remember how the Republicans used the "he can't win his own home state!" dig against Al Gore in 2000?  Well, that will be even more true of Giuliani in 2008, especially in New York City, where to know him is most definitely NOT to love him.  (Just ask Donna Hanover.)  Already, New Yorkers are working overtime to introduce Americans to the REAL Rudy.  And he's not a pretty sight.  [UPDATE:  More on why Rudy is doomed can be found here.]

John McCain?  Mr. Straight-Talker holed himself below the waterline with his backing of Bush's Iraq stance.  He's been dropping in the polls ever since.  Plus, he's seventy-one (71) years old right now, which would make him 73 on Inauguration Day 2009 – and when people find that out, they're not happy about that. 

As for the rest — Huckabee, Romney, Brownback — they're not even worth laughing about.   Forget it:  Whoever wins the Democratic nomination is going to be our next president.  Period.    And whoever it is, he or she will have a lot of new allies in Congress, too, as Democrats will build on the 2006 gains.

No wonder the Republicans are pressing the panic button these days.