Behind the Obama comeback in lame-duck season.
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With Obama on record as (still) opposing that extension for the upper bracket but nevertheless agreeing to it, he’s put himself in a nearly no-win situation going into that critical debate in 2012. If the economy is going badly, he may try to argue “see, the tax cuts didn’t help,” but that argument is a loser among everyone but the far left. Nobody gets punished like incumbents for persistent unemployment. If the economy is going well, Obama may try to argue “now that we’re back on track, we don’t need to give this gift to rich people,” but that argument won’t work because the facts on the ground will lead people to understand implicitly that lower tax rates, even on the evil rich, are good for everyone who would like to be employed.
In other words, Obama’s Republican opponent will either be able to argue that Obama’s enormous deficit spending has kept unemployment stubbornly, painfully high or that Obama’s economic views risk the nascent (or perhaps then adolescent) recovery in employment. (Employment is key because people can’t eat statistical GDP growth.)
The incoming Congress will have a large House Republican majority and the incoming Senate will have 23 Democrats (including Sanders and Lieberman) facing re-election in 2012 versus only 10 Republicans, many of whom will be forced to move to the center to protect their jobs. Particularly with Nancy Pelosi’s scowl being moved out of the Speaker’s chair, Barack Obama will reassume his rightful place as the representative of MoveOn.org, the Sierra Club, and every other free enterprise-hating left-wing organization in America. Oh, and the trial lawyers as well.
Every month will bring a new Republican assault on Obamacare, assaults that are likely to remain popular with the American people and to hurt Obama and other Democrats’ electoral chances in 2012. Every budget battle will be extremely difficult for Obama to win, particularly with the primacy of the House over the Senate on revenue-related legislation.
And the impact of the Tea Party on the last election will weigh on the minds of would-be “moderate” Republicans along with Democrats in purple or red states, leaving Obama far fewer votes to cajole and convince.
Furthermore, if Obama hopes to win reelection in 2012, he will have to have accomplished something during the next two years. Since he can’t get his far left agenda enacted without a Pelosi-run House, he’ll have to occasionally slap down the “Progressive” wing of his own party, his erstwhile base of support. In other words, future Obama victories will likely come at the political expense of his fellow travelers. Obama can win or left-wing members of Congress can win, but probably not both.
Going back to the boxing metaphor, while Obama came out fighting after being badly beaten in the last round, it remains likely that the damage already done to him and his party in the last election makes his lame duck success a temporary, if impressive, resurgence — on his way to losing by decision in 2012.
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