The Republicans swept November’s midterm election by making it highly ideological, a referendum on two years of hyper-liberalism — of arrogant, overreaching, intrusive government drowning in debt and running deficits of $1.5 trillion annually. It’s not complicated. To govern from the left in a center-right country where four out of five citizens are non-liberal is a prescription for electoral defeat.
Which suggested an obvious Republican strategy for 2012: Recapitulate 2010. Keep it ideological. Choose a presidential nominee who can best make the case.
But, he notes, the situation has changed. The Democrats have driven the Republicans onto defense by demagoging Medicare and refusing to pass a budget so they can focus on attacking Ryan's budget.
But he latest economic numbers are dismal and present the opportunity for the Republicans to attack Obama as incompetent on the number one issue: the economy.
As in 1992, it’s the economy, with everything else a distant second. The economic numbers explain why Obama’s job approval has fallen, why the bin Laden bump disappeared so quickly, and why Mitt Romney is running even with the president. Romney is the candidate least able to carry the ideological attack against Obama — exhibit A of Obama’s hyper-liberalism is Obamacare, and Romney cannot rid himself of the similar plan he gave Massachusetts. But when it comes to being solid on economics, competent in business, and highly experienced in governance, Romney is the prohibitive front-runner.
The changing nature of the campaign is also a boost for Tim Pawlenty, the successful two-term governor of a very liberal state, and possibly for another ex-governor, Jon Huntsman, depending on who he decides to run as.
Nonetheless, despite the changed conditions, I would still prefer to see the Republican challenger make 2012 a decisive choice between two distinct visions of government. We are in the midst of a once-in-a-generation debate about the nature of the welfare state (entitlement versus safety net) and, indeed, of the social contract between citizen and state (e.g., whether Congress can mandate — compel — you to purchase whatever it wills). Let’s finish that debate. Start with Obama’s abysmal stewardship, root it in his out-of-touch social-democratic ideology, and win. That would create the strongest mandate for conservative governance since the Reagan era.
His conclusion is pure genius. Defeat him as incompetent on the economy but link that incompetence to his outdated left-wing ideology. That would give the Republicans the opportunity to roll back the welfare state and make it a safety net rather than a universal entitlement. The result could be a conservative revolution more significant than the one led by Ronald Reagan.
With the talk of Rick Perry getting in the race and the longing of many for Paul Ryan to enter the race, the focus of the discussion of which candidate is best should revolve around two things: (1) who can serve as the clearest alternative to Obama's hapless economic incompetence and (2) who can be relied on to effect fundamental change in a conservative direction once he or she is president?