Today’s Courier Herald Column:
The summer preceding a presidential election is a strange time for the campaigns. Most voters are either hyper-partisans who have made up their minds, or are those that don’t tend to tune in until after Labor Day. Money must still be raised, wounds from recent primaries must be healed, and the base must be energized for the eventual sprint to the finish line. All the while the campaigns realize that they are planning for what the landscape will look like in September and October, and try to set the tone accordingly.
Mitt Romney was doing his part in Atlanta on Monday. Newt Gingrich, winner of Georgia’s primary, introduced him to a group of the state’s moneyed and well connected Republicans. Romney left the event with $3 Million more in the war chest for fall’s campaign, and with a bit more distance from the bitter battles of primary season. As for the base, retail politics will have to wait for another day.
There was some attention paid to them as House Speaker John Boehner and Romney met Monday as well for the first time in months. Boehner was in Atlanta for a separate event, and the two reportedly spend some quality time together. No public details of their discussion have been released.
Positing a guess as to the nature of the conversation, the two men have to worry not only about energizing a base during the upcoming fall campaign, but also setting some form of realistic expectations as to what will happen if and when Republicans are given the chance to govern.
The first and foremost goal of any campaign is to win. The meeting had the backdrop of perhaps President Obama’s worst week as President. A jobs report that was significantly worse than already lowered expectations was combined with a “gaffe” where the President spoke openly about help from the federal government needed to be directed to hiring more state and local public sector workers because the private sector was “doing just fine.”
Wisconsin voters affirmed Scott Walker in a recall election with a higher margin than he originally won the Governor’s mansion. The President’s promise to go to the mat with unions orchestrating the recall resulted in a no-show, possibly putting the state into play for the November general election.
As such, it is quite possible that Republicans will pick up the White House, maintain the House, and pick up a narrow majority in the Senate in November. If so, Republicans will then have the responsibility to implement plans for economic recovery, reducing the budget deficit, and filling the various and sundry other promises made to the partisans they are preparing to energize.
Those partisans are also making it clear they are not fans of compromise. They are likely in no mood to hear it takes 60 votes to move an item through the Senate, the quintessential government body of compromise.
As such, while Romney and Boehner need a coordinated message on the upcoming campaign, it is not too early to begin the discussions on what it will take to govern.
A President can often accomplish as much in his first 100 days in office as he will the rest of his Presidency. The two will need a plan that is acceptable to a House that is growing more and more contentious with a Senate that…will still be the Senate.
If answers from candidates who appeared in last week’s 12th Congressional District GOP forum are any guide as to the expectations these men face, the base wants tax reform, entitlement reform, some extra spending for projects that benefit their district while cutting “fat” everywhere else, and doesn’t want a vote to increase the debt ceiling despite the fact that there is no plan on the table to balance the budget during the next Presidential term. Those expectations, in short, do not match an achievable reality.
As such, Romney and Boehner will have to prioritize what can and will be accomplished during an early Romney administration. They will also have to line up legislative support shortly after many members of Congress have campaigned on a no-compromises platform.
Many view winning an election as the most difficult feat. Should the fall campaign go the way Romney and Boehner are hoping, they are likely to find that the election was a cakewalk compared to managing the expectations of their own supporters as they try to govern.