Karl Rove, the political vampire of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, surely wishes he could reschedule Halloween to Nov. 7, turning the day we cast our ballots in the midterm elections into a ghoulish orgy of Republican tricks, dirty tricks.

Fear is a mainstay of Halloween, but it’s all for fun. The Bush-Cheney administration has made it the mainstay of their political strategy, and it’s deadly.

Ever since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, they have unleashed a barrage of color-coded alarms and hysteria that those who oppose the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, and torture of “enemy combatants” (innocent or not) are endangering national security.

The strategy worked in the 2002 and 2004 elections with fear and smear tactics such as the 2002 television ad that juxtaposed photos of Osama bin Laden and Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.), as if the triple amputee Vietnam veteran was an al-Qaeda fellow traveler. Saxby Chambliss won using that rotten trick. Similarly, in the 2004 presidential election, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ran scurrilous TV ads that smeared Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, a decorated war veteran, founder of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, as a virtual traitor.

Rove planned the same script for this election, with Republicans running on the slogan “stay the course” while baiting the Democrats as “cut and run” appeasers. But it backfired so badly that the White House now says Bush will no longer utter the words “stay the course.” And “cut and run” smear attacks are getting no traction.

Instead of fear, there is a mood of anger and a determination to oust the warmongers and fearmongers from office. There is anger about the atrocious Iraq war, the callous disregard of human lives, the hypocrisy, sleaze and corruption, the billions handed to Halliburton and other crony corporations, the tax giveaways to the rich and cuts in vital government services.

As we take our kids out trick or treating, or hand out candy to the small ghosts and witches that knock on our doors, we look forward to helping turn out a big vote to oust the real ghouls from Congress.