Don't let the election results fool you, the G.O.P. is still in trouble. That's the thrust of chief political reporter Adam Nagourney's Thursday front-page piece on the Election 2009 aftermath, "Energized G.O.P. Looks to Avoid a Party Feud."
As he did yesterday, Nagourney continued to forward the paper's left-leaning conventional wisdom, right from the lead sentence:
Republicans emerged from Tuesday's elections energized by victories in Virginia and New Jersey, but their leaders immediately began maneuvering to avoid a prolonged battle with conservative activists over what the party stands for and how to regain power.
Republicans said the victories showed that President Obama and his party were vulnerable on the economy, government spending and other issues.
Yet throughout the day Wednesday, Republicans grappled with the disappointing outcome of a special election for what had been a reliably Republican House seat in upstate New York. That contest became a battleground between the party establishment and a conservative insurgency demanding more ideological purity from candidates.
The race was won by a Democrat, Bill Owens, after the Republican nominee, Dede Scozzafava, a moderate, quit as conservative leaders and grass-roots organizations rallied around Douglas L. Hoffman, who ran on the Conservative Party line.
Despite Mr. Hoffman's loss, many conservatives promised to press on with opposition to centrist Republican candidates. That vow intensified concerns among party leaders that the opportunities they see coming out of Tuesday's results could be dimmed by intramural battles over whether to reach for the political center or do more to motivate the base on the party's right.
In Nagourney's pessimistic view, even after the New Jersey and Virginia results Republicans are still doomed because of party divisions between those ever-"shrinking ranks of Republican moderates" and "conservatives."
The debate has been fueled by a somewhat inchoate populist anger that has taken hold among grass-roots conservatives, encouraged in part by political leaders like Sarah Palin, the party's vice-presidential nominee last year, and commentators like Glenn Beck of Fox News. In that sense, the divisions within the party extend beyond the traditional strains between the shrinking ranks of Republican moderates and the social and economic conservatives who have dominated the party in recent years.
By the Times reckoning, Republican moderates have been "shrinking" for almost 13 years. Former Times reporter Adam Clymer showed concern over the "dwindling band of Republican moderates" back in December 1996. At this rate it's a surprise there are any moderates left at all!
Nagourney added a twist to the Times' three-pronged anti-Republican argument: The party is not only split apart, it's leaderless as well:
The situation is all the more complicated because, after the party's defeats in 2008, it has no dominant leaders or cohesive establishment to bridge the divides and help articulate a positive agenda. In that vacuum, the conservative activists and party leaders were both jockeying for advantage on Wednesday.