In advance of today’s primary, the Republican establishment has gone into overdrive to convince Florida voters that Newt Gingrich is a faux-conservative, ethically challenged has-been. The collective Republican panic has been fun to watch, not least because some of the GOP all-stars condemning Newt are best known for their own ethical lapses and heated rhetoric.
The House GOP’s initial decision to reject the extension of the payroll tax cut was a bone-headed move. Indeed, it was impressively masochistic in the way it brazenly violated not only public opinion, but also the will of Republicans in the Senate, the vast majority of whom voted for the bill. But while Congressional Republicans were violating all manner of political common sense, that’s not to say that they weren’t following any sort of political logic at all.
Take a moment to imagine the following GOP presidential field: two popular, former big-state governors (one a former U.S. Treasury secretary, the other a hero of the conservative movement), two Hall of Fame senators (one of them a former vice-presidential nominee, the other a future White House chief of staff), a former CIA director, ambassador, and party chair, and a couple of miscellaneous House members. Not bad, right? That’s your Republican candidate field in 1980: Ronald Reagan, John Connally, Howard Baker, Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, John Anderson, and Phil Crane.
It was an ugly moment at the September 7 Republican debate when the discussion turned to the death penalty. “Governor Perry, a question about Texas,” moderator Brian Williams began. “Your state has executed two-hundred thirty-four death-row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times.” Suddenly, Williams was interrupted by an outburst of applause and cheers from the audience. The point being made by the Republican spectators could not have been clearer: The death penalty was not just a policy they favored. It was something to celebrate.
A Politico story on House Republicans, by Marin Cogan and Jake Sherman, is generating a lot of buzz this morning. And the item getting all the attention is a blind quote, from a senior House Republican aide, questioning why Republicans would pass a bill that might improve Obama's chances for re-election. Here it is: Obama is on the ropes; why do we appear ready to hand him a win?
As Ezra Klein points out, John Boehner is facing the real problem that any passable debt ceiling deal will provoke a rebellion from his own caucus: We’ve now seen the same farce play out four times. Republican leaders get close to a deal and then, just before they can close it, their members revolt and they have to pull back. The first time was when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor walked out of the Biden talks rather than discuss revenue. The second and third time when when Boehner walked out on the various iterations of the $4 trillion deal he had been cutting with Obama.
Two interesting developments emerged tonight. The first is that the Grand Bargain appears dead. Interestingly, and contrary both to public reports and the tenor of President Obama's press conference, Obama himself drew a line. The two sides had at some point discussed a deal that would raise $800 billion in revenue over the next decade -- a terrible deal, no more than Obama would gain by fulfilling his promise to veto more Bush tax cuts for income over $250,000 a year.
Let’s hear it for the heroes of the republic: the politicians! I know it sounds strange, especially these days when our politicians keep getting caught behaving badly or foolishly and gridlock is the primary export from Washington, but democracy, representative democracy, just doesn’t work without politicians. And not just presidents. Not just people who are worth putting on the side of a mountain. All of them.
Do the surprise victories of Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell in the 2010 Senate Republican primaries mean that seemingly fringe candidates like Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, or even Ten Commandments judge Roy Moore have a chance? That’s what many pundits have been saying.
Charlie Cook points to reasons for historical caution: There is no historical precedent for the party of a president seeking reelection scoring a net gain of more than 15 seats; presidential re-election coattails do not exist. Franklin Roosevelt’s Democrats only picked up 11 seats in 1936, Dwight Eisenhower’s Republicans lost two in 1956; Republicans under Richard Nixon picked up 12 seats in 1972 and 14 seats in 1984 under Ronald Reagan. In the last two reelection years, Democrats gained nine seats in 1996 under Bill Clinton and Republicans three in 2004 under George W. Bush.