I keep receiving emails from conservative groups begging me to help them stop the Democrats' "socialist" agenda. (The latest is from the anti-immigration Minuteman PAC. Best line of the email: "We have to stand firm against the forces of the left, just as our forefathers stood against the tyranny of the Red Coats!!!") Anything conservatives don't like--be it tax reform, gay marriage, or comprehensive immigration reform--automatically gets lumped under the banner of "socialism."

I realize that, as political bogeymen go, socialism is the new communism--that is, it's meant to suggest a politician's adherence to an evil ideology without making his accuser look loonily stuck in the middle of last century. Still, with the conservative movement driving away moderates and independents at an impressive clip, I can't help but think that any kind of red-baiting (or is this technically pink-baiting?) reinforces the image of the GOP as the party of melodramatic hysterics and unhinged fringers.

With three weeks to go, how much smaller can that Big Tent get?

--Michelle Cottle