With just a bit more than 10 months left before we choose a president and most of Congress, the 2012 campaign for the Oval Office and Capitol Hill is kicking off for real with Tuesday’s presidential caucuses in Iowa (terribly unrepresentative though they are).
With Barack Obama stockpiling his millions upon millions, there’s no doubt about his running again. The interest is all on the Republican side, but the problem is that the interest is getting less and less interesting.
For those few of you who haven’t figured it out yet, I am a conservative first and a Republican only a very distant second, and thus I always hope that a truly conservative candidate will emerge from the scrum to win the GOP nomination.
Usually I am disappointed, and it looks like I will be disappointed once more time when autumn rolls around. Sigh.
There’s no point reiterating the pluses and minuses of the surviving GOP candidates — there will be fewer of them very soon, and very likely, only one by the time the leaves come out on the trees.
As much as it pains me to say it, it very much looks like that person will be Mitt Romney. Not because he is personally flawed — he appears to live up to the substantial moral demands of his Mormon faith — but because his professed economic conservatism, and many of his social-issue positions, appear to be a matter of late conversion more than innate conviction.
Of course, it is common on the Democratic side of the aisle for politicians who were economic or social conservatives in local or state races to adopt big-government, socially permissive stances once they reach the national level. Dick Gephardt, Jesse Jackson and Al Gore all made those leaps without a look back. If Romney wants to go from left to right, well, God bless him.
Sadly, the candidates I favored most never even made a run. Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan and Mike Huckabee all declined the honor, so we are left with what we are left with.
And should he get the nomination, I will vote for Romney with pleasure and anticipation, at least compared to the incumbent socialist now taking a golf vacation in Hawaii on $4 million of taxpayer money.
But that anticipation is heightened not because I expect great things out of Mitt — although we could get them, stranger things have happened — but because the outlook for the House and Senate was bright before and now has gotten brighter.
The news that Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., has declined to run again because he was facing almost certain defeat, has made the hill the Democrats have to climb to maintain control of the Senate considerably steeper.
Nelson, a “moderate” who provided the last vote for Obamacare, took a good look at that anchor around his neck and decided to call it a day, greatly increasing the GOP’s chances of taking the seat.
Andrew Malcolm, a veteran correspondent who blogs for Investors’ Business Daily, noted that six of the eight senators who have declined to run again are Democrats.
With the Donks holding only a 53-47 majority (counting independents Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman, who is also a lame duck), Malcolm says Republicans “would have to nominate a large number of Elmer Fudds to blow this one. Holding their own and grabbing four seats gives Republicans a majority in that body, which means the country could have a federal budget for the first time in nearly three years.”
And the withdrawal of Rep. Barney Frank typifies what’s going on in the House. Richard Pollack, an editor at the blogsite PJ Media, notes Frank and “eight other veteran House Democrats who reside in safe congressional seats are throwing in the towel.”
That‘s because, Pollack writes, “The nine House retirements are even more notable because each ranks high in seniority for key House committees — if the House returned to Democratic rule, they would be in line to assume chairmanships. … House members can sit for 20 years on the Hill and never get close to a chairmanship. Some of the retirees had easily won re-election with 60-70 percent majorities. Their stampede for the exit is yet another admission that the Democrats face a potential ‘wave’ election, and of course, it portends considerable trouble for Barack Obama.”
Big trouble for Obama, of course, is precisely what we’re hoping for in November. And, for those of us worried about the potential squishiness of a Romney presidency, recall that if GOP majorities in both houses send him strongly conservative bills to sign, he will almost certainly sign them.
A lame-duck Obama, having lost all chance of getting his own agenda enacted, would still be able to block much of what needs doing — including the repeal of Obamacare and its replacement with something empowering people, not bureaucrats, to guide their own health care.
The same is true for reining in deficit spending and reforming Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. I will vote for whoever wins the GOP nomination (and no, I don’t think Ron Paul will get it), but if it’s Romney, remember that things could be worse — much worse.
Like they are now, for example.
M.D. Harmon is a retired journalist and free-lance writer. He can be contacted at: