Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The President's Re-Election Strategy

Perhaps unsurprisingly, we learn from a recent Washington Post story (www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obamas-2012-political-strategy-keep-attacking-unpopular-congress/2011/12/30/gIQATe7WRP_story.html) that the President's core re-election strategy will be to "(k)eep beating up on an unpopular Congress.

Given an economy with continuing serious issues regarding a significant lack of jobs and concerns about continuing wealth and income inequalities to which no one has made any meaningful proposals to address, this may be a natural path for the President to take.  After all, if Congress has an historically low approval rating, running against it may hold out the possibility of tapping into a shared distaste for an evidently ineffective institution.

However, the strategy is not without some significant risks, including the following:

1.  Such a strategy does not actually address any of the voters' substantive concerns, such as unemployment, high debt levels, structural deficits, the need for entitlement reform, budget cuts or social inequalities or present a record of solving those issues.

2.  For the first two years of his term, the President's party not only controlled both houses of Congress, but their most significant achievement (ObamaCare) has features opposed by large portions of the electorate.

3.  During that period, as well as thereafter, there was no meaningful progress on entitlement reform, the structural deficit and increasing debt levels, budget cuts or otherwise.

4.  Similarly, the President not only failed to support the recommendations of his own fiscal commission, but also advanced no specific proposals for entitlement reform, the structural deficit and increasing debt levels, or budget cuts.  Generally, if one plans to complain about obstructionism, it's a political advantage to have a record of having made your own proposals, with specific, substantive detail, for solutions to major outstanding issues, which the voters can then evaluate.

5.  Finally, if (as seems likely), the Republicans retain control of the House (and practical "blocking" control of the Senate), running against the folks you will have to work with, and claiming they put party over country, bodes ill for future cooperation between the two branches of government.  This may be especially so if Governor Romney is the eventual nominee and can present a record of having successfully having worked with a Democratic legislature in his home state.

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