To my mind, the coming elections are all about whether 1) the Republicans have a better alternative than returning to Bush-Cheney policies on spending, taxes, war and debt and 2) whether what the Democrats have done in this Congress is worth rewarding. My view is that 1) the GOP has actually gotten worse since Bush-Cheney and their vows of spending cuts are utterly unconvincing (especially since they will have no mandate on any of the specifics necessary to forge a new path). And I remain of the belief that the stimulus worked about as well as one can in an advanced economy, the bank bailout was much more successful than I expected, the decision to bail out GM now looks prescient as it recovers, and the health reform is a decent start but requires careful monitoring on the cost front.

But what do voters think? On health insurance reform, the poll of polls still shows a plurality opposed (the proportions both supporting and opposing the law have sunk). But this nugget from the Kaiser poll stuck out:

Among Republicans, opposition to the law remained steady at 69 percent, but the intensity of that opposition ticked upward. Fifty-three percent of Republicans said they had a "very unfavorable" opinion of the law this month, up from 50 percent in June. Independents, who can tip the balance in elections, split 48 percent to 37 percent in favor, compared with 49 percent to 41 percent a month earlier. The intensity of opinion among this group showed little change; just less than a fifth expressed a very favorable view, and just more than a quarter expressed a very unfavorable view.

This is the great risk of the Palin strategy. By marinating in Fox News propaganda, the Republican base has become extremely angry and polarized. But the sane and not-so-political middle has softer and more favorable views. I wonder whether this pattern is beginning to spread to other areas. As one detects a GOP becoming simply an anti-Muslim party, as the draconian measures against illegal and mainly Hispanic immigrants proliferate, as epistemic closure grows ... will we be surprised this fall? Or can anger really change the entire scene?

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