American Decline


Republican activists in this key presidential state have a dark, foreboding feeling that America is in decline. They believe the nation is hurtling in the wrong direction, and worse, on the brink of losing its unique place in the world.

That sentiment is hardly new to American politics, but it's one that's been reanimated by the presidency of Barack Obama. Some see him as hostile to the notion of American exceptionalism. Others simply don't believe he's an American at all.

Together, it's fueling the rise of an emerging debate on the right that could overshadow the traditional focus on social and fiscal issues and create an opening for a candidate who can speak to a still inchoate but clearly volatile element that is roiling the conservative grassroots.

It's not that culture wars and tax revolts are about to be displaced in GOP presidential politics by an abstract discussion on what ails Uncle Sam. Rather, the very issues that have typically energized GOP primary voters—such as abortion, faith, gay marriage, debt, military power—are being subsumed into a larger debate about a country in decline.

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