Political Hay

Time to Suck It Up

Romney can win this thing.

By 9.24.12

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It seems that a number of conservative pundits are losing their grip on this presidential campaign. Reading normally sane publications such as the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard, and even Broadway types like Joe Scarborough and Peggy Noonan, you would think that this race wasn't winnable. Did they think that knocking off a sitting president was going to be easy?

It is time to suck it up. Governor Romney can win this thing. Compared to Ronald Reagan in 1980, the race is very competitive if you believe Gallup (tied) or Rasmussen (Obama +1). I understand that Democrats argue Bush 2004 as a counter-factual, but the point is that the future is not written in the stars or the entrails of pigeons. You have to play the game.

Dick Morris has posted an analysis of polling results and argues that most polls underestimate Romney's strength because they are over-weighting the samples of Democratic constituencies based on 2008 voter turnout. Rasmussen, on the other hand, is using a blend of 2004 and 2008 to reflect historic and likely turnout levels.

Fortunately, the rank and file did not get the memo of despair. Here in Virginia volunteers are pounding the pavement hard for the GOP's candidates, up and down the ticket, supported by a solid organization. The face of this effort is Barbara Comstock, a Republican state legislator, who is also a veteran political consultant and activist. From what I can tell, she doesn't sleep much.

In less than a week after Romney's naming of Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate, the Romney and Virginia organizations pulled off a highly successful fundraiser in Arlington.

Another thing that is completely off the radar of Beltway and some conservative media types is the complete and unrelenting mobilization of social conservatives of all stripes dedicated to retiring Barack Obama. The Wall Street Journal, for instance, is certainly not against social conservatives, but its focus is primarily on economic libertarianism, tax reform, and neoconservative foreign policy. Thus, its editors tend to overlook elements of the Republican coalition that are not exclusively economic- or defense-minded. Unlike Grover Norquist, say, whose lifetime vocation is fighting tax increases, they do not understand coalition politics.

Pro-lifers, Evangelicals, Catholics, frosted over the violation of their First Amendment rights, Mormons of course, and pro-family advocates are in full mobilization. These elements of the base, along with defenders of the Second Amendment, anti-tax advocates, and the many and varied groups making up the Tea Party are highly motivated. They tend to talk less and work more than most pundits. Laborare est orare.

While the Catholic hierarchy usually does not name names in terms of whom to vote for, at least explicitly, President Obama's anti-Catholic policies will continue to be the subject of much preaching and teaching through the balance of the election season. Moreover, there are now several grassroots organizations of popish persuasion who are working the Internet very hard, if my own inbox is any indication.

Campaigns follow a rhythm of their own with ups and downs but generally reaching a crescendo when all the elements of strategy and advocacy come to a peak in the final weeks before the November election. Call it the moment of truth when voters will finally cast their lot with whichever candidate matches the sum total of their hopes, dreams, and fears.

By the middle of October, I think a number of simple but disturbing truths will penetrate the collective consciousness of the electorate. And, yes, these will primarily be economic truths that will tip a majority of voters toward Mitt Romney. This is in no way antithetical to the activism of social conservatives who are often given a bad rap. Simply put, most social conservatives are in fact economic conservatives. Not all, but most.

Back to home truths, the economic ones. These were conveniently outlined by several heavy hitters on the Opinion page of the Wall Street Journal ("The Magnitude of the Mess We're In," September 17, 2012). Co-authored by George Shultz (serial Cabinet member), Michael Boskin, John F. Cogan, Allan H. Meltzer, and John B. Taylor, all solid conservative economists, the article posed a series of rhetorical questions to drive home our current predicament at the hands of the Obama administration.

"Did you know that annual spending by the federal government exceeds the 2007 level by about $1 trillion?" resulting in "an unprecedented string of federal budget deficits, $1.4 trillion in 2009, $1.3 trillion in 2010, $1.3 trillion in 2011, and another $1.2 trillion on the way this year."

Shultz and company note that the four-year increase in borrowing amounts to $55,000 per U.S. household.

"While it might be tempting to conclude that we can just tax upper-income people, did you know that the U.S. income tax system is already very progressive?" Indeed, the top 1 percent pay 37 percent of all income taxes and 50 percent pay none.

Regarding the Fed, the authors enquire, "Did you know that, during the last fiscal year, around three-quarters of the deficit was financed by the Federal Reserve?" Foreign governments take care of most of the rest. The Fed now owns one in six dollars of the national debt, the largest in history including the Second World War. Most of this goes to, i.e., is given, to the banks, "effectively circumventing the appropriations process."

You get the idea. The bottom line is that "President Obama's budget will raise the federal debt-to-GDP ratio to 80.4% in two years, about double its level at the end of 2008 to the beginning of this year." In ten years, the President will expand our debt to $18.8 trillion from $10.8 trillion. "The interest costs alone will reach $743 billion a year, more than we are currently spending on Social Security, Medicare or national defense, even under the benign assumption of no inflationary increase or adverse bond-market reaction."

As we dive into the crucible of October, these daunting statistics will be driven home by Governor Romney in the debates and the GOP party apparatus across the nation, supported by a wave of activists, a diverse yet coherent coalition of social, economic and defense conservatives representing the majority of American voters.

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About the Author

G. Tracy Mehan III served at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the administrations of both Presidents Bush. He is a consultant in Arlington, Virginia, and an adjunct professor at George Mason University School of Law.