One of the more pressing questions facing today’s staggering, flailing Republican Party, oddly enough, is which Democratic Party it most resembles: the party of 2004 or the party of 1980?” asks The Atlantic.

“If 2008 finds the Republicans where their Democratic rivals stood four years ago, then their challenge is tactical: they need smarter strategists and more-effective messaging; better online fund-raising and fewer inside-the-Beltway scandals—and maybe improved recruitment as well, to put forward a slate of candidates who don’t look as if they should be populating a segregated Elks Club circa 1957. And they need an infusion of nerve and principle, to remind the party’s base why they vote Republican and to give swing voters a reason to throw their lot in again with the GOP.

“If, on the other hand, the Republicans are experiencing their own 1980—with Barack Obama playing the role of liberalism’s Reagan—then the GOP will need something more to hack its way out of the wilderness where George W.Bush has left his party. The Democrats of ’80 needed better ideas, not better messaging and candidates; they needed to redefine their party, not just rebrand it.”

Read the full story here.