Running Against Congress
Harry Truman is famous for three things: using the atomic bomb against Japan; firing General Douglas MacArthur; and upsetting Thomas Dewey by running against a “do nothing” Congress. Thus far the Obama strategy is to propose “tax the rich” legislation which knows will fail, making no effort to find compromises – hopefully he won’t resort to Truman’s other highlights. Here are a few facts usually ignored in the main stream media’s “anti-Congress” story line:
1. Currently 6% of likely voters rate the job being done by Congress as good or excellent; 68% view it as poor. That compares to favorability ratings in the low teens during the 2007-2010 period when Democrats controlled both houses. Bad ratings can mean “too conservative”; “too liberal”; “ineffective”; “corrupt” or all of the above. Whatever – a bad place to be in politics and a good target.
2. The media assumes that a low rating means an anti-Republican attitude, and that is clearly what the President wants. With the Republicans holding a 48 vote majority in the House and the Democrats holding a 6 vote majority in the Senate, the logic of blaming Republicans for gridlock breaks down. The reality is that voters prefer Republicans to Democrats for Congress by a 43 to 38% margin. Reasons are complex, but include personalities (Democratic leaders Pelosi and Reid are among the least liked politicians in the country) as well as policies, (in)effectiveness, and the President’s rhetoric.
3. Those watching closely understand that the 2012 Republican budget proposal was defeated by the Senate which offered no alternative and has not passed a budget in almost three years. (They did vote down the President’s proposal 97 – 0). They also understand that the Senate is currently sitting on 25 jobs-related bills passed by the House, most having to do with regulations and taxes. When the Republican candidate is selected, expect a clearer advocacy for popular conservative House measures.
Given the choice between running on his record (real unemployment; debt; “green energy” scandals; health care cost increases; ongoing anger about Wall Street; Iran; Israel; whatever) and running against a Congress with a 6% favorability rating, the decision is easy. (Unfortunately for Obama, “blame Bush” has reached its expiration date.) By trashing Congress, however, he hopes to attract all of the Democratic money and makes no effort to create Democratic legislative allies to help him actually govern. He makes no effort to align with Democratic incumbents.
- In the House the Democrats would need to gain 26 seats to put Pelosi back as speaker. Thus far they have had 17 announced retirements as compared to nine for the Republicans. (All nine of the Republicans are running for higher offices; eight of the Democrats are.) One can assume that Barney Frank would not retire if he thought that he could get his House Financial Services Committee Chairmanship back. Republican gains look likely.
- In the Senate there are currently 51 Democrats, 2 Independents (who vote Democratic), and 47 Republicans; thus the Republicans need to gain four seats to assume control. In this cycle the Democrats must defend 21 seats, the Independents two, and the Republicans ten. Six incumbent Democrats and two incumbent Republicans will not run. Analyses by left-leaning Charlie Cook and right-leaning Stu Rothenberg (the two gurus) show that the Republicans would have the necessary four gain if they take a few of the tossups. Neither party can reach a filibuster-proof 60 seats.
The Obama plan is simple: keep advocating tax increases on the rich which the public likes and the Republicans will refuse; keep the focus on the House rather than the Senate; suck up all of the Democratic contributions so that he can spend a billion dollars trashing whoever the Republicans nominate; get ready for four more years of golf. We can all support the golf.
This week’s video is a non-endorsement of Newt Gingrich by one of my heroes, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.