Assessing the Senate polling, Nate Silver makes two telling adjustments:

I have also made a couple of changes to the regression model. Firstly, we are replacing the partisan ID variable with a variable indicating Obama's current standing in our presidential projections. Evidently, there are some coattails/synergies with Obama's ground game in states like North Carolina. And secondly, I have introduced a variable for the number of Southern Baptists -- our "scientific" way to demarcate the South -- as the economy seems to be playing differently there than in other regions of the country. Both variables are highly statistically significant.

My italics. The reason the economy is playing differently among Southern Baptists may surely be that many are voting primarily on religious, cultural and theological grounds.

The economy is irrelevant compared with religious identity. What this campaign may be doing is stripping most secular Republicans and independents from the GOP coalition. We could be left with a purely sectarian-Christianist rump, which will control the GOP for a generation. And McCain will have distilled Rove's religious coalition in eight weeks more effectively than Bush in eight years!

What we may be seeing is all the dangerous trends I identified in "The Conservative Soul: Fundamentalism, Freedom and the Future Of The Right" being brought to faster and more potent fruition by the combination of an economic crisis, a black Democratic candidate and a far-right Christianist unknown like Palin. It is as if the McCain-Palin campaign is acting as a purgative of moderate or centrist Republicanism in this atmosphere. What this could portend is that the GOP could become reduced to a George Wallace rump - even more than it now is. And from that scorched piece of earth, it will be much harder to recover in the short or medium run.

How ironic that Bush and Rove would truly find their reductio ad absurdum in the wreckage of John McCain's "honor." But how fitting in a way. Even McCain drowns in the wave of bigotry and fear these people unleashed for their own short-term advantage. Even McCain.

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