It seems to me, however, that there are two differences between this election and the last. One is John McCain, and the other is Barack Obama. If Obama is the Democratic nominee, the presidential candidates in both parties will be likable (and well-liked) political figures with proven abilities to broaden their party’s base of support. That wasn’t exactly the case in 2004, if you recall.

Another potential difference between the two elections is that public opinion polls seem to indicate that, on a variety of issues (every issue except abortion and guns, from what I can tell), the political center has shifted left. If that had been the case in 2004, George W. Bush would not have won reelection. But it is 2008, and John McCain understands, and knows how to win, the political center, wherever it falls on the ideological spectrum. Which means no particular outcome is certain. And no issue is off the table.

It’s possible that in this environment McCain is the best the GOP can do.