For a long time, I was confident that Republican voters would oust Barack Obama in 2012, hold the House and, in all likelihood, take the Senate. Obama is a weak incumbent, who has been chronically unpopular since early in his term. His re-elect numbers are weaker than historically have ever worked for incumbent presidents. On paper, he is ripe for the picking.
Nevertheless, if you are a Republican, the vibes are very bad. The presidential primary season has turned into a disaster, in my view. Mitt Romney has shown a discouraging inability to appeal to the party’s base, while the race has damaged both Romney and the party. Newt Gingrich, in particular, sacrificed the party to his own ego by launching left-wing attacks against Romney. Gingrich is gone as a Republican contender, but we will see more of him in the fall, in Obama ads. What a swan song for someone who once led the conservative movement!
Rick Santorum is a bright guy who has performed well in the debates, and he is hot, this week, in the Republican base. But he doesn’t have the chance of a snowball in Hell of being elected president. He couldn’t even get re-elected to the Senate in his home state of Pennsylvania in 2006. The 2012 election will be almost entirely about the economy, although national security is always relevant to a presidential contest. It would be suicidal for the GOP to nominate a candidate whose signature issues are gay marriage and abortion. At the end of the day, the party won’t be that dumb. But the fact that the party’s base is flirting with Santorum manifests a lack of seriousness that may prove fatal in November.
Meanwhile, President Obama is quietly staging a comeback. Optimism about the economy is growing at the same time that the Republican Party is, in most peoples’ eyes, making a fool of itself, so it is hard to identify the main cause of Obama’s resurgence. But you can see Obama’s comeback in Scott Rasmussen’s Approval Index. Currently, Obama is only -11, compared to -20 or -21, and his overall approval among likely voters is not too bad, at 50/49.
Obama has been nowhere near even in the Approval Index since early in his term. He has, in that respect, an astonishingly low ceiling. Some would say that this makes him unelectable to a second four years. But it is hard to escape the sense that the Republicans are blowing it. Barack Obama has run the national debt up to $15 trillion. Who is talking about that scandal? Jeff Sessions. Paul Ryan. Us. Who else? You shouldn’t be able to get a haircut without hearing people talking about our children’s debt in the barbershop. And there are fewer Americans working today than when Obama took office, largely as a result of his administration’s moronic anti-growth policies. How can a president with such a poor record hope to be re-elected? Why does Obama even have a chance?
The answer is threefold: 1) Barack Obama may be a horrible president, but he is the biggest moneybags in the history of politics. He will raise a billion dollars, plus his SuperPac. The Republican candidate, whoever he may be, will be swamped by Democratic Party, rich liberal and labor union money. And it is worth noting that a large majority of the GOP’s activists who now take such an arrogant attitude toward the Republican contenders will contribute little or nothing to the eventual nominee. 2) The press is now falling into ranks, forming a solid phalanx that will try to re-elect their candidate, no matter how disappointed in him they may be. For the next eight or nine months we will see the most nauseating political effort ever undertaken by the “mainstream” liberal press. 3) Sadly, the fratricidal Republican Party has blown its opportunity in the primary season to educate the American people on the economic and foreign policy fiasco that the Obama administration has been.
So, do I think the 2012 election is slipping away from conservatives, Republicans, and the American people? Yes, I do. This is a year in which it was incumbent on conservatives to pursue, soberly, the overriding goal of evicting Barack Obama from the White House. We didn’t do that; in fact, it wouldn’t be far off the mark to say that we made fools of ourselves by chasing one will o’ the wisp after another. I fear that in November, we will pay the price.