Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Which Way To Reality?

Jonathan Bernstein sums up the Tea Party-sponsored debate last night in Tampa.

…the GOP keeps spinning farther and farther from the general election median voter every week. And, in many cases, reality — do these folks really believe that the biggest economic problem today is runaway inflation? That Americans are desperate to rid themselves of Social Security? That policies enacted by Barack Obama and the Democrats in 2009 (whatever you think of those policies) caused a recession that began in 2007? That “exceptionalism” is the beginning and end of foreign policy? I know, one expects rhetoric that plays to the audience, and I’m sure that most of these positions and the rhetoric that goes with it is carefully polled and focus-grouped (as well it should be). And that’s the real story here: The audience has been trained by Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and the rest of that squad — and therefore a careful, cautious, Republican presidential candidate who is perfectly well-versed in the issues, solidly conservative in the tradition of Ronald Reagan, and knows exactly what he or she needs to do to win the Republican nomination is going to sound like a nut half the time.

There was a story in the New York Times over the weekend about the fretful Democrats worrying that President Obama might be a one-term president. This is typical of the Democrats; they always worry out loud, which is a trait the Republicans never share. No matter what their candidates’ fortunes look like, they are united, if not robotic, in their undying support and belief that they will win, even if their favorables are in the toilet.

And while the president’s poll standings may be in the 40’s — and given all that he’s had to put up with from both the left and the right, it could be worse — the fact remains that the Republicans are clearly on the road to nominate an extremely vulnerable candidate in either Mitt Romney or Rick Perry. (You can forget about the rest of the field. The only reason they’re hanging in there is to nail down a contract with Fox.) Mr. Romney is so mercurial that I expect the next GOP debate to be between the current version of him versus any one of his previous iterations. Mr. Perry, as the debate last night demonstrated with his views on Social Security and healthcare, has a lot of positions that make him unpalatable to anyone to the left of Rush Limbaugh.

Given the economy and the blast furnace of the Orcosphere, President Obama won’t have an easy run to re-election, but the one thing that could save his chances is who he ends up running against.