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GOP Strategist: This Is 1968 for Republicans

Ralph Reed, a prominent Republican pundit, strategist and the first executive director of the political powerhouse Christian Coalition, issued a blunt warning to his party today and criticized Sen. John McCain’s campaign.

Reed said this presidential election is shaping up to be like the one in 1968, except with Republicans losing in the country’s electoral realignment.

“I think if you had ten more [better] trading days,” Reed predicted, then the race might tighten to the “low single digits.” The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than 936 points Monday.

But, meantime, the race is slipping away from the GOP.

It was also a big mistake, Reed added, for McCain to have rushed to Washington in September and “take ownership” of the push for the bailout of the financial system.

Reed was speaking on a panel with Democratic strategist Harold Ickes and journalist Todd Purdum at the TimeWarner summit in New York on Monday. (I’m also speaking at the conference.)

Ickes also criticized the Republican presidential campaign, noting the “irony” of a race that was once hyped as a referendum on Sen. Barack Obama has turned into an examination of McCain. “He has sold his soul to [Lee] Atwater,” said Ickes, referring to the father of modern smear tactics.

McCain’s attacks have left voters asking three questions about the Arizona senator, said Ickes:* Who is he? What does he believe in?* and Is he competent?

Both strategists agreed that the Internet was the most important factor upending this year’s campaign. Reed marveled at Obama’s fund-raising prowess online, while Ickes waxed about how striking it was to see a hyperactive news cycle, in contrast to what he* thought *was fast when he worked in the White House in the 1990s.

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