Sunday, April 01, 2012

Six Months to Go

A political snapshot, Spring 2012:

It’s six months until we elect a President of the United States.

It appears the brawl that is the Republican primary
has resulted in so many body blows that the last candidate standing
has been permanently damaged.

But not so. It’s like pro wrestling. Nobody really gets hurt.

Political memory is too short. No one will remember the nasty things
Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum said to and about each other this fall
when the presidential race gets down to the bell lap.

And who will the GOP candidate be? The drama here is almost at an
end. Romney has a large delegate lead, a well-oiled machine, money,
endorsements and the backing of the party establishment.

It is also apparent that nothing he says or does will mollify the
conservative wing of the party. Conservatives don’t like him and he
spends three times as much money as Santorum to win a vote, not
exactly an endearing statistic.

Santorum soldiers on, perhaps to influence party philosophy, perhaps
in hopes of becoming Romney’s running mate.

Don’t laugh. Romney needs a social conservative to unite a splintered
party if he wants to win in November.

If it’s not Santorum, it will be another representative of the GOP’s
right flank.

But it won’t be Newt Gingrich. You would have thought by now that
Gingrich would have retired from the race, saving what’s left of his

Instead, he has dumped a third of his staff and is now
charging his supporters $50 to have their pictures taken with him.

It’s political panhandling. All you can do is avert your eyes and
walk away.

The Associated Press reported that Gingrich plans to spend much less
time in primary states and instead personally call delegates to try
to persuade them to back him at the Republican National Convention in

“We are not going to cede to Mitt Romney’s strategy to take the party
down,” said a Gingrich spokesman. Ultimately, Gingrich would take the
fight to the convention floor, he said.

GOP unity seems to be a work in progress.

So it looks like clear sailing for President Obama, right? All he
has to do is remain presidential, appear above the fray, and watch
the Republican Party collapse in on itself, like a black hole in deep

Wrong. An incumbent president can find himself on thin political ice.
Just ask George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter or Gerald Ford. Any upheaval
foreign or domestic can seriously hinder reelection chances.

Right now, Upheaval No. 1 for the Obama Administration is health
care. The Supreme Court is determining the constitutionality of the
Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare if you will.

Whether the Court dumps the whole thing, parts of it or returns the
whole package to Congress for a rewrite, there is no good solution
for the Democrats.

Having a major legislative initiative declared unconstitutional is
not a plus in the political playbook.

Indeed, the Court’s conservative justices just might declare the
entire act invalid and since they make up the majority, it seems a
real possibility.

All of which raises an interesting issue. A majority of Americans have
indicated in polls that they don’t much care for Obamacare, even
though they voted for Mr. Obama and health care reform was a major
plank in his platform.

So the American voter is fickle. What else is new?

But a Bloomberg poll conducted earlier this month found that “an
overwhelming majority of Americans think that the Supreme Court
justices’ political views will influence how they vote on the Obama
health care reform” challenge.

So a Constitutional issue becomes a political one. If health care
reform is rejected by the justices, the President could choose to be
portrayed as a martyr, a man whose vision for America has been
trampled under the boot heel of a politicized Supreme Court.

Sound extreme? Nothing is out of play when the White House is at

Would the death of Obamacare be a cause for GOP celebration?

Sure. But not a very raucous one. If Romney is indeed the Republican
candidate, voters will be reminded that he passed a health care
reform measure while governor of Massachusetts that was almost
identical to the Affordable Care Act.

Thus, any criticism of Obamacare could be turned back against him.

It will be an interesting six months.

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