It has been all the rage this election season to note that the Republicans, especially Bush, are doing badly, and should be so easy to beat, except that the Democrats are frittering it all away and are doing even worse. Various plans are offered on the op-ed pages and news commentary shows advising the Democrats what they should do about this (Ever notice that this friendly advice is always given to the Democrats? On the rare occasion that such advice is ever offered to Republicans, the advice is to move to the center - read: center-left - and not "pander" to their base).
Most of this advice misses the point. Much of the reason that Republicans are doing badly is that the Democrats have been going consistently negative on them for years, and the MSM is echoing this is milder terms. Unfortunately, the reason the Democrats are doing badly is that they are seen as always negative, being critical without solutions. The method the Democrats have used to give themselves this opportunity is precisely the method by which they are losing it. The positive numbers that generic Democrats are showing are because their brand name still has some cachet, and people don't necessarily associate a generic Democrat with intensely negative campaigning.
There are no generic anything's running. There never are. Once a Democrat has to actually run, making statements and giving interviews, s/he has a dilemna. Every move toward criticism opens the door to all those impressions of shrill, outraged liberals pandering to their nutcase base. But if s/he doesn't go negative, s/he can't inflict damage. It's a wash, or worse.
There was an excellent example of this in the run for the Democratic presidential nomination leading up to Iowa. Howard Dean was showing some good poll numbers, but the support was known to be soft. He was clearly vulnerable on several areas where he had made an ass of himself, but none of the other candidates wanted to be seen as going negative on him. All the focus groups had indicated that an upbeat message was going to prevail. In the last two weeks before the caucus, it was clear that Dean could win unless someone took him down. But whoever took him down would go down himself, being immediately perceived as mean or irritable.
Dick Gephardt took one for the team. Dick went negative, and both he and Howard dropped in the polls in a matter of days (It wasn't the scream that did Dean in. He had already lost the caucus, remember?).
The strategy had worked pretty well for the Democrats over the years, because they had been able to effectively disassociate the attack dogs from the current candidates. Send out your wild accusers, but let the Joe Liebermans of the world take the high road. That method seems to be falling apart this year, because the attack dogs aren't staying in their place. They're attacking the Democrats who don't feed them red meat, and attacking with much of the fervor they reserved for Republicans before.
This is because they're batshit crazy, of course. They've come to believe their own rhetoric about fascism and police states.
P.S. Republicans run for office telling you they're going to work for you, because that's how they perceive progress happening: someone works for it. Democrats run telling you they're going to fight for you, because they believe that's how improvement comes: someone has to wrest good stuff away from others. This year it is even more extreme. The Democratic ads are assuring people that the candidate will protect the citizens from the Republicans, who are apparently on the verge of stealing lunch money from Cub Scouts.