Thoughts on 2012
by Tom Donelson on December 27, 2010 at 1:09 PM
Here are a few thoughts on 2012 and beyond. In a recent piece in the Weekly Standard, Jay Cost observed that the 2012 election will be close and best case scenario for Republicans would be 51-49. Another aspect is that Obama has appeared to hit the floor as Jay Cost observed, "The Real Clear Politics job approval average has actually found a marginal softening on the disapproval number in the weeks since Election Day, while the approval number has been consistently between 45 and 47 percent. Neither the Gallup nor the Rasmussen daily tracking polls show much change over the course of the last few weeks on either the approval or disapproval side. All in all, this suggests that President Obama's long slide in approval ratings -- going from the mid-60s at the time of the inauguration to the mid-40s by this summer -- has finally halted. He has hit some kind of floor."
I will add that my number crunching goes along with what Mr. Cost has noted so the first thing to keep in mind is this will be a close election and the President has the ability to shape events to his favor. There is one exception to this and that is an economy that goes south or a foreign policy debacle (like Iran getting the bomb) that could make it virtually impossible for Obama to win, just as the Lehman brothers collapse ended whatever chance McCain had of winning. The recent lame duck points out the advantage of a President working with a majority in Congress to get his agenda passed. Now let’s talk about the reality of what has transpired and how Republicans can use this to their advantage in 2012.
Extending the Bush tax rates for another two years represents an intellectual victory for Republicans along with the budget commission recommendations. I will not go into the weakness of both events but Obama had to admit that Obamanomics was not working and he was forced to accept the tax extension to quite frankly save his administration. Key members of his economic team past and present noted that a failure to pass the bill could lead to a possible double dip recession. I have highlighted the budget commission recommendations weaknesses over the past month in various forums and won’t repeat them here. What I will note is that the commission made three major admissions: the government spending as a percentage of the GNP was not only too high, but needed to keep a specific level, the entitlement programs were breaking American financial security and tax rates matter so a lower marginal tax rates along with reducing deductions as part of any tax reform is a must! You can’t spin this or the tax debate as a victory for Obamanomics and the failure to pass the Omnibus bill was a victory for free markets even if there was enough pork in the tax bill or no spending cuts to make many conservatives gag.
Republicans should do the following in the next session. First, advocate a tax reform plan similarly based on the commission recommendations (without the additional tax increase). David Brooks, the New York Times Obama loving moderate, suggested a similar action on behalf of Obama (and can we assume that someone in the Obama administration tipped him off to write this as a trial balloon.) So why not beat Obama to the punch?
Secondly, begin cutting the budget and understand that much of it will be resisted but be proactive. Propose and legislate and let Obama veto or the Senate should vote down the cuts. Include proposals to reform Health care and begin the process of defunding selected regulatory agencies. The recent FCC action on the internet was a bold in your face, stop us if you dare, and I say, let’s dare and stop the FCC. It's turned into a government takeover of the Internet vs. freedom. Ask why the left hates the word, "government takeover of Health care"and the answer is that the truth exposes their agenda. Repeat the mantra for the FCC, "government take over of the internet!" Make it clear to Obama and the Democrats, net neutrality is a no go and if not reverse, the FCC will be defunded.
On foreign affairs, the START treaty is now a reality and much of the Republican leadership caved to a bad treaty. What should Republicans'response be? Since Obama has ensured the Senate that there will be no limits on strategic defense, and when one read the news that Venezuela is building their own missile capacity that puts much of the Southern United States at risk, make sure that SDI is part of any defense budget. Let Obama either veto it or accept it. And let's see if the Russians will buy it if Obama accepts it. What will happen is either Obama will say no way, it is in the treaty, or the Russians will say no way, which means that Obama was not honest with the Senate on this provision. If the Russians object, we will present the American people with two choices, either the Russians agree to renegotiate or we pull out of the treaty under a Republican administration if a Republican President gets elected. (It should be pointed out that Robert Kagan, a treaty supporter, has made a similar case for the Republicans insist on funding for SDI.)
Which now brings us to the crux of the 2012 campaign; Obama biggest chance of winning is for the economy to heat up and unemployment go down. The recent action of Congress will at least not hamper economic growth even though it may not bump it up significantly. The question that GOP candidates should ask, since Obama is already talking of reversing what has happened on the economic front if he gets re-elected, can we trust him to do the right thing on the economy or will he repeat the same policy that delayed a strong recovery? If he says that he will raise taxes on the most productive, then we can only assume he will repeat the worst aspect of his economic plan. Who will you trust to do the right thing with the economy?
Lets us challenge the notion that Obama saved us from a great Depression, he did not. He merely delayed a strong recovery and unemployment presently is worse than when he took office. Reagan’s plan produced a stronger recovery and put in place economic growth that lasted three decades. Can Obamanomics produce the same? Since he has already retreated intellectually on this issue on whether tax rates matter and even many of his own Party members have conceded that Obamanomics needs a radical restructuring, the answer is self-evident. No.