The Republican Party is going to extend its Operation Open Door a bit longer -- maybe quite a bit longer. This is better news for the Democrats than the Republicans, for the original idea was to show Republican organizational muscle and Republican realignment appeal by getting 100,000 voters in four states to change their registration to Republican within 100 days. In politics, alas, there comes, usually on Election Day but sometimes on self-imposed deadlines, unequivocal evidence that your project didn't work. Republican spokesmen claim 100,000 switches, but to get anywhere near that number they have to include people who've signed cards promising to switch and supposed switchers in states other than the targeted four. The Democrats are understandably chortling.

They shouldn't chortl too much, though. True, this is the second time this month that Republican realignittle short: in Texas the Republicans lost, 51-49, the special congressional election they had spent upwards of $1 million to win. But both Operation Open Door and the Texas race were high-risk operations. They could only have been undertaken and gotten as close to success as they did by a party with a vast fund-raising base (made up mostly of smallish contributors) and formidable organizational skills. And there continue to be strong indications that Republicans, as a party, have a stronger appeal in the South than ever.

The Republicans' liability is that, while they have strong stars, they have almost no bench. For the Democrats it works the other way around. They are blessed, almost every election year, with hundreds of aggressive, politically adept candidates. The Republicans aren't. They work hard to come up with good candidates, and more often than they'd like to admit end up with successful entrepreneurs, who don't understand that ordinary voters are unfamiliar with the exhilaration of running your own business, and ideologues of the right, who are determined as a matter of principle to abolish those few agencies of government for which support among voters remains well-nigh universal. The losses of their Texas and Operation Open Door gambles aren't going to make their difficult task of recruiting good candidates any easier.