Saturday, July 30, 2011

Race for the White House 2012

Before the Ames Straw poll, and before Rick Perry formally enters the Republican field. Before we find out whether or not Herman Cain, who curtailed back some campaign appearances, will stay in the race or not, the political focus across the country is on the President, the Senate, and the House, as Tuesday August 2 looms.

If legislation to raise the U.S. Debt Ceiling is not agreed to by then, many believe the country's credit rating will be downgraded, a default will occur, and economic catastrophe could be upon us. Others will say that those fears are totally overblown.

In any event, this past week has seen frantic action on Capitol Hill as Congress has tried to agree to a workable deal. Over the past week, Barack Obama, who has never really put forth his own plan to deal with the crisis, has been even more of a side player, as the Republican led House of John Boehner and the Democrat led Senate of Harry Reid have held votes that have yet to produce a plan able to pass both Houses of Congress. While ideologues from both sides of the aisle will continue to protest loudly whatever might eventually be signed into law, I still think that a deal will get worked out at the deadline and politicians from both sides of the aisle will breathe a sigh of relief to be able to put this story to bed, at least for a short while.

For at least the next week, Presidential politics is taking a backseat to the often ugly process of governing. That does not mean of course that politics itself, and partisan gamesmanship is not very much at play in Washington D.C., but the current discussion makes an election scheduled for next year seem a little less pressing at the moment.

The GOP Field of 2012 though has exerted their voices to some extent on the Boehner plan, which narrowly passed the House yesterday, only to be tabled in the Democrat controlled Senate. Tim Pawlenty came out against it, while Mitt Romney "applauded" it, but did not explicitly endorse it. Sarah Palin spoke out against it on Facebook and seemed to threaten primary challenges to the Congressional Republicans who voted yes. Rick Perry did really take a clear position on the legislation, other than to generally downplay the risk of a default.

As for the candidates who had an actual vote; Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul joined with a small minority of "Tea Party" Republicans (and all Democrats) in voting against the Boehner plan while the little noticed Thad McCotter voted yes.

The one Republican candidate who has been the most vocally in favor of the Speaker's proposal is Jon Huntsman, who has been positioning himself as the most moderate Republican in the field, and who spent part of the week attempting to publicly goad his fellow GOP contenders into publicly coming out in favor.

In the meanwhile, data late this week shows a far worse economy than even anticipated, and a the daily Gallup numbers from the last two days show Obama at a new all time low. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress are not looking any better themselves these days. Americans are clearly frustrated with politics in general coming out of the nation's capital, and regardless of what happens this week in regards to the pending deadline, and regardless of which side will be able to claim "political victory" either by seeing their favored plan enacted or by negative political fallout for the other side, there will be no "winners" in this saga.

The 2012 Presidential election, besides being a referendum of the incumbent President, Barack Obama himself, may also be a more general referendum on the federal government itself, where Obama has served since 2005.

Economic anxiety and disapproval of "politics as usual" might make 2012 difficult for anybody on a national ballot who has been working in Washington D.C. If nothing changes, the circumstances will be quite ripe for an "outsider" to run on their distance from the "mess in Washington" all the way to the White House.

While there may wind up being a couple other Republicans who could potentially also use that narrative, the political headlines of the past week, and what is likely to continue, make the "at a distance" approach of Mitt Romney appear to be pretty politically shrewd.