In the summer of 2007, when the Iraq War was going nowhere, the housing crisis was bubbling to the surface and President Bush's approval rating was reaching its nadir, it looked all but over for the Republicans. It looked like Hillary Clinton would be the next president of the United States.
Things don't look so bad for the GOP now, doesn't it?
And the Republicans themselves have little to do with their good fortune. As it is, it's a muddled race with no clear frontrunner. But with the Democrats bent on self-destruction, the November election is very much up for grabs, perhaps with a slight edge to the GOP.
After promises of a "nice," "issue-oriented" campaign for months, the gloves have come off for the main Democratic contestants, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- or Barack HUSSEIN Obama, as preferred by some of Hillary's ardent associates.
To be fair, Clinton's camp did most of the dirty work, beginning during the desperate hours just before the New Hampshire primary. With Hillary on the brink of defeat, her camp pulled out all stops to steal a surprise win and halted Obama's momentum.
The nastiness has continued, with the race card, gender card, now even the religion card fully in play. Hillary's smear campaign has paid off with a narrow win in Nevada, even though Obama ended up collecting more delegates.
Obama, tired of playing defense, finally started to hit back. During a live TV debate full of rancor, one that relegated John Edwards to his appropriate third wheel status, Obama fired off a few rejoinders of his own, including Hillary's history as a Wal-Mart board member and her propensity to twist facts, aided and abetted by her husband.
Hillary, not crying now, unleashed her own attack zingers, calling out Obama for his "present" votes in the Illinois legislature and his questionable association with an indicted slum landlord.
It made for great television, and it might've sent the Democrats back on the road of wilderness for four more years.
The Democrats now are more divided than ever. It's whites against blacks. Hispanics against blacks. Men against Women. Big Labor against the rank-and-file. Atheists against Muslims.
This exposes the ugly truth about today's Democratic Party: At the very base level, it's all about identity politics. Obama had tried to transcend all that. He was running as an American, not African-American. He was trying to play for the whole of the United States, not just blue states.
But Hillary said, uh-uh. And the era of good feelings is over.
The problem is, Hillary might have won the battle, but she might have lost the war as well. She might have regained her status as the presumptive nominee, but in the process, she picked up many more enemies.
Her new enemies will be her biggest obstacle on the way back to the White House. Never mind the conservatives who will show up just to vote for the other guy in the general election, her campaign might be doomed by those who DON'T show up.
If the black electorate perceive their man -- the first African-American with a realistic chance to win the presidency -- was nudged out by Hillary's dirty politics, they will stay away in droves. No amount of get-out-to-vote effort will get them off their porch to vote against a guy they've got no beef with, whether it's McCain, Romney or Huckabee.
Also, in the general election, women will not outnumber men by a 60-40 margin, as has been the case in the first few nominating contests. And Republican women's distaste for Hillary sometimes overwhelms that of the Republican men. Basing almost your entire campaign on soliciting female votes has always proved to be a losing proposition.
Hillary has almost check-mated herself. By beating Obama with the tired old identity politics, she has proved that she has no fresh policy ideas beyond the usual left-wing pu pu platter. By turning off a large majority of black voters, she's left herself no margin for error in a national election. By alternating between female victim and raging man-eater, she left no doubt that she's as manipulative and insincere as she's ever been.
As for Obama, he's learned a few valuable lessons. Even if it might be too late for this year, he'll know now that high-minded politics only works against certain opponents. Not against the Clinton Machine.
But fear not, in four years, he'll get to run against an incumbent Republican. President McCain or President Romney will seem like such a nice chap.