[Posted by Karl]
Allahpundit is probably not the only righty nervous over the current election polling, even though it is still too early in the cycle for deep concern. The polling is likely the product of a media environment hyping good economic news and the GOP intra-party fighting. However, folks right of center should not get into a mode of blaming a left-leaning media. The establishment will probably spend much more time on dropping unemployment claims than rising foreclosures or the combo of rising gas prices, falling gas consumption and retail sales. (A recovery led by declining unemployment figures seems odd, given that unemployment is generally considered a lagging indicator, but I digress.) But most forecasters were predicting some economic growth this year, and the right should never be rooting for bad economic news.
James Pethokoukis offers Republicans advice for how to win if the economy keeps improving. Some of it — the JFK-esque “we can do better” approach is alright, some of it (the economy is built on debt, Obama did not really fix our structural problems) is true, but unlikely to resonate with the mushy middle in a decently improving economy. As the out-party, the GOP may need another issue to mitigate an improving economy.
Finding such an issue is sometimes not easy. In this cycle, two possibilities spring immediately to mind. The debt bomb might be an exploitable issue,as Americans (including the Obama administration, rhetorically) recognize the current path is unsustainable. However, as just suggested, the issue may lose some potency with the mushy middle if the economy grows decently. Moreover, the Democrats and their media would likely do their best to reframe any discussion of the debt into a Mediscare campaign.
The other obvious issue is Obamacare, the president’s still-unpopular signature legislation. Mitt Romney would be a poor candidate to exploit this issue, given his stubborn refusal to abandon Romneycare. In contrast, Rick Santorum has had a cogent critique the Obamacare/ Romneycare paradigm of government-controlled healthcare. On the other hand, if Santorum became the GOP nominee, the Democrats and their media would do their best to steer any discussion of healthcare into a discussion of Santorum’s aversion to contraception. And for whatever reason, Santorum seems to relish debating a question which likely alienates the mushy middle, instead of assuring them his focus would be on the issues important to them.
Anyone who reads me regularly knows I harp on the fundamentals. If the economy does improve significantly, any Republican would have difficulty winning. Accordingly, I do not fault Republicans for focusing on the economy. However, the GOP field’s biggest weakness may be how ill-suited they seem to be in talking about anything else.