David Frum: Forget McCain and stop Obama by saving the Senate

Tough stuff, but conservative passions this year have always been more anti-Obama than pro-McCain (at least until Palin joined the ticket) so I’m curious what you guys think. Nate Silver, a lefty but one who usually plays it straight in his poll analyses, gives Maverick a five percent chance at this point and only then if he gives up on Pennsylvania and starts targeting New Hampshire and New Mexico. Compare that to the thin spreads in various Senate races (as compiled at Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site) that the GOP desperately needs to win to preserve the filibuster: Mitch McConnell, Saxby Chambliss, and Roger Wicker are all clinging to leads of just a few points while Norm Coleman, Liddy Dole, Gordon Smith, and Ted Stevens trail narrowly. Every last one of them’s an incumbent. If the RNC pulls the plug on McCain, they could shower those seven with cash for the last week and try to put them over the top. Or, alternatively, they could stick with Maverick and hope for the best. How lucky do you feel?

The stakes according to Frum:

First, with the financial meltdown, the federal government is now acquiring a huge ownership stake in the nation’s financial system. It will be immensely tempting to officeholders in Washington to use that stake for political ends — to reward friends and punish enemies. One-party government, of course, will intensify those temptations. And as the federal government succumbs, officeholders will become more and more comfortable holding that stake. The current urgency to liquidate the government’s position will subside. The United States needs Republicans and conservatives to monitor the way Democrats wield this extraordinary and dangerous new power — and to pressure them to surrender it as rapidly as feasible.

Second, the political culture of the Democratic Party has changed over the past decade. There’s a fierce new anger among many liberal Democrats, a more militant style and an angry intolerance of dissent and criticism. This is the culture of the left-wing blogosphere and MSNBC’s evening line-up — and soon, it will be the culture of important political institutions in Washington.

Unchecked, this angry new wing of the Democratic Party will seek to stifle opposition by changing the rules of the political game. Some will want to silence conservative talk radio by tightening regulation of the airwaves via the misleadingly named “fairness doctrine”; others may seek to police the activities of right-leaning think tanks by a stricter interpretation of what is tax-deductible and what is not.

The best bulwark for a nonpolitical finance system and a national culture of open debate will be the strongest possible Republican caucus in the Senate. And it is precisely that strength that is being cannibalized now by the flailing end of the McCain-Palin campaign.

He goes so far as to suggest that Senate candidates concede the likelihood of Obama’s victory and run on the sort of divided government platform McCain himself intends to push this week. Exit question: You’re the chairman of the RNC and your phone’s ringing off the hook with demands for money. What do you do? After you print up a few million copies of Treacher’s post and mail it to Republicans, I mean.

Update (Ed): What do I do?  I do basic math.  The Republicans are defending 23 seats in the Senate, and the Democrats 13.  There’s no way on God’s green Earth that the GOP will have enough seats to block the Democratic agenda no matter how much the RNC spends; they’ll be lucky to get 43 seats, and they can’t spend the next two years filibustering everything if they plan to win seats back in 2010.  They’re better off spending the money on McCain — his odds are much better than the Senate Republicans.