Republicans Doing It Again?

The Illinois primary is now in the books as a Romney win. This was a significant state; if Santorum had won it, he would have made a major stride toward his goal of reversing the delegate math. As it is, Santorum’s path to the nomination has become virtually . . . well, I was going to say “impossible,” but I don’t want to go quite that far. Nevertheless, the odds are now more against it than a week ago, even if he pulls out Louisiana later this week.

The media, aided by the Romney campaign, played up a comment by Santorum that made it appear he didn’t care about the unemployment rate. We all know how easy it is to pull a phrase out of an entire explanation and twist the intent. That’s what the Romney team did in this case. Santorum’s full statement was “My campaign doesn’t hinge on unemployment rates and growth rates. It’s something more foundational that’s going on.”

Romney should know how a statement can be taken out of context. Remember when he said he wasn’t concerned about the very poor, and the firestorm that created for a while? Well, I knew he meant that the very poor were already being taken care of by current policies, and that he wanted to help everyone. I didn’t criticize him for that. Neither should he and his team have taken a cheap shot at Santorum for his unemployment rate comment. It’s typical campaign dishonesty.

What did Santorum mean? His concern is more broad-based. He sees the overall trend in American society—the destruction of the traditional family, the loss of Judeo-Christian morality, the war for religious liberty, the over-extension of government power, etc.—and realizes these are the root causes of our economic woes. He also has made it clear that if Republicans hang their election hopes on bad economic numbers only, that they will be vulnerable if those numbers change for the better. It’s the difference between being principle-oriented vs. doing whatever is expedient to win a single election cycle.

I will always side with those who understand and promote the basic principles that serve as salt and light for a nation.

What Republicans are now poised to do, by choosing Romney, is to reenact the debacle of former nominees such as Bob Dole and John McCain. I’m also hearing the same refrain as I heard in 2008 when Huckabee continued the race against McCain when it seemed as if he couldn’t win. We were told he needed to withdraw so the party could coalesce around the inevitable nominee. Forgive me, but I still believe Huckabee would have been the better candidate. McCain’s campaign was dreadful; the only spark he ever got was when he added Palin to the ticket.

If Romney does pull this off, the only way he’ll gain any conservative enthusiasm for his campaign is if he makes a very solid and wise choice for his vice president. If he opts for another middle-of-the-roader, he will find it difficult to get the grassroots support he will need. There will still be a lot of us who will vote for him, but only because another Obama term is unthinkable. But that’s not the same as heartfelt support for the nominee.

I do believe Romney can defeat Obama, but then I worry that we will have Obama-light. Sometimes when you win in the short term, you lose overall. Will he really overturn Obamacare? Will he make good choices for the Supreme Court? I could go on. These remain large questions in my mind.

Presidential Poll Numbers & Reelection

President Obama’s approval ratings have been below 50% for quite some time now. Depending on which poll you believe, his favorability is somewhere between 42-48%. That certainly looks bad for him at this stage of his presidency.

In an interview with Barbara Walters a few days ago, he said he’s not really in that bad of shape; as proof, he cited how poorly both Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan were doing two years into their presidencies—both lower than he is currently.

He is correct. There are other factors to take into consideration, however. Let’s start with Bill Clinton.

After experimenting with normalizing homosexuality in the military and concocting a healthcare bill that foreshadowed Obama’s, Clinton’s popularity was definitely in the tank. Neither was he helped by the accusations of scandal that began early in his administration. As a result of these unpopular policies and proven congressional misdeeds, Democrats lost control of Congress just two years into Clinton’s first term. There are shades of Obama’s predicament in what Clinton had to negotiate, although Democrats currently still control the Senate, albeit precariously.

What did Clinton do? He refashioned himself into a centrist. No more social experimentation with the nation’s military and no more radical agenda items. He even famously declared in one of his State of the Union addresses that the era of big government was over. Now, I don’t think he really believed that, but it was politically expedient to say so.

Couple that image makeover with a thoroughly beatable Republican candidate in 1996—Bob Dole—and Clinton was able to win a second term. The scandals continued, of course, and he suffered an impeachment trial, but the public was fat and happy with the economy, the foundations of which he inherited from Ronald Reagan.

What of Reagan’s unpopularity two years after his inauguration? There are distinct differences.

  • First, since Reagan didn’t believe in government pump-priming to create an artificial prosperity, he didn’t push for a huge stimulus bill. He chose the long view of things rather than a quick fix.
  • He successfully shepherded tax cuts through a Congress where the Democrats continued to control the House, showing his ability to work with the other side and win key Democrats over to his policies.
  • His budget, with tax cuts as part of it, didn’t even begin until October of his first year. Consequently, it would take a while for them to go into effect and spread through the economy.
  • The public may not have liked waiting [the source of popular discontent] but they at least saw a viable plan being put into operation. They could wait for results. With Obama, results were promised immediately, only to fall flat.
  • The last two years of Reagan’s first term saw a distinct rise in the economy that showed the wisdom of his approach. He won reelection on the heels of an America that was on its way back to prosperity after the nightmare of the Nixon-Ford-Carter years.

Why does all this matter? I don’t think Obama has it in him to emulate Clinton. He’s an ideologue who genuinely believes in his “solutions,” false as they are. He will not bend. The consensus from economists is that we can expect high unemployment through the next two years. If the economy hasn’t shown any serious life by then, he will be in far deeper trouble than Clinton had to face in 1996.

Neither is he a Reagan. Again, his ideology blinds him to real solutions. Even as things get worse, he paints a rosy picture. Anyone remember “Recovery Summer”? Maybe you just missed it; you weren’t paying attention. Right.

Reagan not only cut taxes but he also directed his administration to reduce federal regulations. Obama’s vision is the polar opposite. Reagan saw a recovery that lasted throughout his final six years in office. That’s not going to happen in our day without a significant shift in policy. Republicans can’t make that happen by having the majority in the House only. Even if they controlled the Senate, it would not be by a large enough margin to override presidential vetoes of bills they pass.

In other words, unless Obama changes drastically, don’t expect any uptick in America’s economy. Unless he deals correctly with the mounting debt [i.e., spending cuts], things will only get worse. If we go into hyperinflation, which many economists predict, expect a voting public that’s even more upset with the state of affairs than in 2010.

If all this occurs as predicted, expect Obama to be a one-term president.