Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Campaign 2012 starts…right now!

I was up until midnight last night and finally had to go to bed. When I finished watching, the House was well in hand and as of this morning the number is looking like mid-60’s. A number of Democrats retained their seats because of poor candidates running against them in places like Nevada, Connecticut and Delaware that should have fallen and in spite of good candidates, the deeply liberal states of California and Oregon stayed blue but otherwise it was ugly for Democrats all around. It didn’t get as much attention but a lot of governors mansions are changing hands as well including a crushing defeat of Virg Bernero by Rick Snyder in Michigan as well as some state legislatures switching hands. That will have an enormous impact on 2012 as a lot of these states lost or gained seats and the GOP will control redistricting.

The situation we are left with is not one that is going to get a lot done. A fractious wave of new Republicans backed by the Tea Party in the House, an impotent Senate and a very unpopular President equals a crazy two years between now and Tuesday, November 6th, 2012. The campaign for 2012 starts this afternoon when President Obama addresses the nation. It will be very interesting to see what he has to say. I wonder how he likes the taste of humble pie?

I would imagine that we are going to see the jockeying for position start immediately among national GOP leaders. I have to think that lots of talk is going to center around Senator-elect Marco Rubio. He is my age but boy would he make a great VP candidate in 2012, what a contrast to “Bumbling Joe” Biden he would provide. He is a nightmare for Democrats, a young, eloquent conservative who is Hispanic. If the Dems lose a sizeable chunk of the Hispanic vote, they are sunk. There is already muttering about Sarah Palin and I sincerely hope the party coalesces around someone other than her. She is great at speech making and rallying the troops but at least now is not Presidential material. I am thinking maybe a GOP governor, like Tim Pawlenty, paired up with Marco Rubio perhaps? I expect to see Mitt Romney’s name start to crop up more and more as the serious, adult candidate and of course Ron Paul who has gone from fringe kook to mainstream but in the next eighteen months a lot can happen. 2012 seems a long way off but when you think about it, there isn’t much time between now and the start of the primary season, just a little over a year.

I would also expect to see Speaker Boehner start introducing lots of legislation to cut the size of government that will be neutered in the Senate and eventually vetoed. I can’t see President Obama compromising on the things he thinks are successes like Obamacare. Why would he compromise on something that he invested all of his political capital to push through even though voters soundly rejected it?

Another interesting dynamic is that there are a lot of uneasy bedfellows in the Republican Party this morning. I don’t think that the party old guard is nearly as excited as the rank-and-file. Career politicians like things to be predictable, it makes it easier to gather and keep power and as the last few election cycles have demonstrated, things are anything but predictable in politics these days. Senator Jim DeMint wrote this morning to warn Tea Party backed winners that Washington will try to corrupt them immediately:

Congratulations to all the tea party-backed candidates who overcame a determined, partisan opposition to win their elections. The next campaign begins today. Because you must now overcome determined party insiders if this nation is going to be spared from fiscal disaster.

Many of the people who will be welcoming the new class of Senate conservatives to Washington never wanted you here in the first place. The establishment is much more likely to try to buy off your votes than to buy into your limited-government philosophy. Consider what former GOP senator-turned-lobbyist Trent Lott told the Washington Post earlier this year: "As soon as they get here, we need to co-opt them."

Don't let them. Co-option is coercion. Washington operates on a favor-based economy and for every earmark, committee assignment or fancy title that's given, payback is expected in return. The chits come due when the roll call votes begin. This is how big-spending bills that everyone always decries in public always manage to pass with just enough votes.

Very true. The party insiders are certainly happy to be back in charge in the House but they don’t like how they got there. It is like having an annoying guy with great tickets to the ball game. You want to go to the game and the seats are awesome but now you have to sit next to this guy you don’t really like for the next 3 hours.

The big question mark is President Obama. Can he shift gears like Bill Clinton in 1994? Will he admit that the American people have rejected his agenda? Or will he misread the message again and assume that his agenda is what people want and the only failure was one of communication? I am skeptical that he will read this election correctly. Even up to election night, the message was still that “the people” supported his agenda but were too scared about their jobs to think rationally.

Anyway, buckle up! We will have a few weeks free from political ads and with talk of working together but know that behind the scenes Campaign 2012 is already in full force.
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