JONATHAN CHAIT FEBRUARY 5, 2010
Mori Dinauer goes after Ramesh Ponnuru:
I think Ramesh Ponnuru's reputation for being a smart and honest conservative really ought to be called into question after reading his essay at National Review that games out a Republican Contract with America for 2010. He repeatedly claims that the elections will be a referendum on Obama and the Democrats, who will have controlled Congress for four years, without once mentioning the state of the economy, unemployment, or jobs. And his assertion that "[i]t may not be a coincidence" Republicans lost in 2006 and 2008 because they didn't promise a middle-class tax cut? Perhaps this alternative reality could be used in an upcoming episode of Fringe.
The elections will be "primarily" (the qualifier Dinauer omits) a referendum on Obama and the Democrats in the sense that the voters are, rightly or wrongly, going to hold them responsible for unemployment, etc. This does not strike me as a cosmic injustice: President Reagan was held responsible for the economy of 1982 and Bush for that of 1992 even though these things were not entirely within their control, either. As for the "not a coincidence" line, obviously I'm not saying that the lack of a middle-class tax cut was solely responsible for Republican losses. I'm saying it contributed to the size of their losses—hence the word "pummeled" in my copy.
I haven't read Ponnuru's NR piece, which is not online. But his follow-up is admirably candid about the degree to which voters are strongly influenced by economic conditions that are largely out of control of the party in power. It's refreshing to see a conservative admit this.