President Bush was in trouble. Nothing was going right, and the war in Iraq was rapidly losing support. Democrats smelled victory but kept bungling the chance. Their nominee was so unappealing that Bush and the GOP scored a giant victory.
That's a short history of the 2004 elections, when Bush won a second term and the GOP gained seats, and kept control, of both houses of Congress.
Fast forward and 2006 is shaping up like deja vu all over again.
Bush hasn't seen 50% approval in the polls for months, Iraq is stuck in bloody neutral and congressional Republicans are under fire for ties to a corrupt lobbyist. With midterm elections in the fall, Dems should be able to take one or both houses and exert much more influence over the last two years of Bush's term.
But Democrats are still getting in their own way, and could blow their chances again. The most prominent party leaders, including Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy, have become so extreme that their attacks make Bush look good by comparison.
Clinton seems to have gone off the deep end. She followed up on her stupid remark at a Martin Luther King Day event that the House is "run like a plantation" by charging the White House with a "deliberate policy of neglect" in rebuilding New Orleans. She suggested in a San Francisco appearance that Bush saw the hurricane as "a mixed blessing" and that he was afraid "all those Democrats might come home." NAACP Chairman Julian Bond topped that by saying Republicans would be happy to fly the Nazi flag.
Such nutso talk feeds the rage of party fanatics, but it's a surefire turnoff to the independents who decide close elections. The situation recalls Israeli Abba Eban's memorable line about Palestinians "they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity." So it seems with Democrats.
Their blunders allow Bush to defy political gravity despite having only one issue where the public trusts him keeping America safe from terrorism. Sentiment turns against him on most everything else.
A recent Los Angeles Times poll, citing the economy, health care and Iraq, found that more than 60% of Americans say the country needs to change course. Only on whether Bush's policies had made the nation more secure did a slight majority give him a thumbs up. That's pretty much where he was when he beat John Kerry in 2004.
Yet as bad as he is doing, Bush has higher approval ratings than congressional Dems 43% to 36%, the poll found. And that poll was taken before Kennedy finished his disgraceful attempt to smear Samuel Alito and before Bush's forceful State of the Union address.
The Kennedy episode is the perfect example of what's wrong with Democrats. Alito is a smart and humble man whose conservative views are a prime reason Bush nominated him to the Supreme Court. Kennedy tried to bring him down by outrageous attacks on his integrity.
The hypocrisy was breathtaking. From his two expulsions from Harvard for cheating to his leaving Mary Jo Kopechne to drown off Chappaquiddick to his notorious philandering, Kennedy has zero standing to lecture on ethics. But there he was, smearing Alito in ways that would have made Joe McCarthy proud. And not a single Democrat rebuked him.
Just think: If Dems take the Senate, Kennedy's seniority would give him enormous clout and a committee chairmanship. You don't have to love Bush to say, no, thanks.