As two more states hold Republican primaries today, the message out of national data is that the election is the GOP’s to lose – and the party may prove fully up to the task.
Yes, I have heard talk about the president’s approval ratings surging. But look at the Rasmussen tracking graph (http://tinyurl.com/5tnd2b). If the president’s approval rating were a stock, no one would claim we are coming out of the recession. Rather, Obama, Inc. fell from amazing heights right after its 2008 IPO to depressed levels within a year, established a trading range and has stayed within that range ever since. The top of the range is about 50 percent, the bottom about forty. The stock has become a little more volatile over the last seven months. It has moved from the top to the bottom to the top. Not much time has been spent in the middle. But it has never escaped the range.
We have all heard about the Rasmussen polls of the last week showing both Mitt Romney and Ron Paul beating the president and Rick Santorum only a few points behind. In truth, all three spreads are within the margin of error. But after all the beatings they have given one another, for the three major GOP contenders to be tied with the president at this stage of the game suggests deep, underlying strength.
Here is one arresting statistic. It comes from political commentator Michael Barone. He may have written about it, probably has, but I heard him say it at a dinner last night, so I can’t give you the link. Take the last five elections. Compare the popular vote in each to the popular vote by party for the House of Representatives in the prior mid-term election. In each case, Barone said, the Democrat v. Republican presidential outcome is within one percentage point of the national Democrat v. Republican midterm vote.
As I say, evidence is accumulating that the race is the GOP’s to lose. But can it win?
Yesterday House whip Kevin McCarthy addressed the annual Washington meeting of the Hoover Institution. McCarthy was in charge of the GOP 2010 effort to take back the House. He talked in part about the statistical analysis he and his staff had performed to establish goals for the race and about the kinds of candidates he had recruited. One was Stephen Fincher, now a first-term congressman. When McCarthy met him, Fincher was, as The Almanac of American Politics describes him, “a gospel-singing farmer” who “grew up in Frog Jump, Tennessee.” What did McCarthy like about Mr. Fincher? He had never run for public office. Running would be a financial hardship. But he was determined to do it, because he was so alarmed at the direction the country was taking.
McCarthy’s point was that the Republicans won’t win on any level unless candidates show the same kind of commitment and passion Fincher showed, not for polls and consultants, but for rescuing the nation. We will win on what we stand for, he said. We have got to tell people how we will cut spending, balance the budget, bring down the debt, and revive economic growth.
Alarm about the financial future of the nation permeates all serious quarters in Washington these days – a qualification that apparently leaves out the White House. But does it also leave out the GOP contenders?
Over the past week, I have spoken with a number of political insiders you would assume are friends and supporters of Senator Santorum’s candidacy. All… all… have expressed dismay about the cul d’sac into which he has driven his candidacy — references to the president’s “theology” and other such remarks. “You would never advise him [Santorum] to use that word,” one sighed. That’s all the press will talk about now, he added, continuing, we’ve got off the major issues.
In a recent gathering of policy experts, one particularly shrewd observer from overseas echoed this concern about the nation’s focus. America’s debt, he said, is a threat to global security. His point was that the United States is the anchor of global peace and freedom. If we spend ourselves into the status of Greece, the entire world will suffer, catastrophically.
As we enter our fourth year of trillion dollar deficits with the administration promising only more of the same, GOP voters should insist that the candidates for the nomination start to talk about what must be done to rescue the nation and the world? Against the billions that the president and his George Soros-type friends will pour into the coming race, we can’t win unless we do.