Rapidly shifting political winds
In recent weeks, political reports have been all aflutter with stories like "Political winds shift to Democrats" suggesting that somehow Barack Obama and congressional Democrats had, yet again, used an issue -- this time the payroll tax cut extension -- to best Republicans.
It's not that the story is unbelievable; the GOP historically finds ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But the current political debate is being held on quicksand, not on terra firma, and no one issue-based "shift" is likely to be sustained.
Thus it's interesting to see the debate swing toward the GOP with the House of Representatives introducing a spending bill to ensure the government does not run out of money later this week. The reaction by President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been, well, almost no action at all.
Instead, they refused to vote on on a bipartisan spending agreement, reached by congressional appropriators on Monday, in order to try to force Republicans' hands on extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits prior to their holiday break.
Suddenly, the Republicans look the adults in the room, getting some bipartisan compromise and backing off from certain provisions in the bill which conservatives wanted, including taking on the overzealous, job-killing EPA.
At this pace, it's going to be hard for Obama to run against a do-nothing Congress since the do-nothing part is the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Also, it's being reported that Democrats are backing away from their proposal to cover the cost of a payroll tax cut with a surtax on millionaires.
The GOP is winning the war of ideas and politics this week. But they should not get overconfident. In order to beat Barack Obama, Republicans need to demonstrate principle and intelligence -- the latter even more difficult for them than the former -- consistently for the next year.
In the meantime, our best ally is probably Barack Obama's remarkably tin political ear.
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