In an odd moment from this week, an eagle-eyed Taegan Goddard found a strangely pessimistic image on the RNC's website -- pessimistic, that is, from the RNC's perspective. On an image depicting "Obama's Last Day," there was an accompanying datestamp: "January 20, 2017." We thought, "Wow, we know that Republican voters are down on the 2012 field of candidates, but where's the pride, man?"
The image has since been corrected, and it makes a certain amount of sense, because if there was ever a week to doubt whether President Barack Obama would earn a second term, it was this week. The debt ceiling debate ended in a deal that left Democratic voters disgruntled and independent voters alienated. That was followed up by a staggering drop in the Dow, and another miserable jobs report. The administration once again promised a "pivot to jobs," but the problem was that the debt ceiling bargain itself offers precious little room to do anything. And the worst news was that the Economic Policy Institute projected that the debt ceiling deal itself was going to result in the loss of 1.8 million jobs between now and 2012.
So, the hostages weren't spared in the end. Instead, ordinary Americans will take a slow-motion bullet to their hopes over the next year and a half. And while in practical terms, it is the people who took the hostages in the first place who own the coming malaise, the fact that everyone signed on in equal measure will allow everyone to spin it however they like. There are plenty of people who think that in the end, the GOP primary process is destined to crown a radical candidate, but in such dire economic times, you have to alter your definition of "electable."
Over in the GOP field, the emerging candidate might be the one we haven't added to the slideshow, but who looks certain to join very soon -- Texas Governor Rick Perry. The emerging consensus among political observers is that Perry looks like the guy who will eventually become locked in a fight at the top with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. According to the conventional wisdom, Perry entering the race would cause Michele Bachmann's support to collapse and flow in his direction, setting up a battle between a guy who's way out on the rightward fringes but remarkably consistent, against a guy who looks electable but has a nagging habit of changing his mind over and over again, in sometimes comical fashion. (Seemingly confirming this, this week, Bachmann's campaign manager had a message for Perry: "Stay in Texas." with an implied "pretty please," perhaps.)
But while Perry portends a possible shake-up to come, the fact that he has yet to declare his candidacy doesn't mean the field is placid at the moment. Rivals continue to beef with each other. Ron Paul has hit Romney. Tim Pawlenty has gone at Bachmann. Bachmann's camp took a shot at Herman Cain. And the word on the street this week was that internecine war has broken out in Jon Huntsman's campaign. It's pretty clear that going in to next week's debate in Iowa and the subsequent Ames Straw Poll, the stakes are starting to rise again.
But it wasn't all so serious! This week, Newt Gingrich got mired in the most important Twitter dispute of all time. Ron Paul defended his decision to have his campaign T-shirts made by overseas slave labor. Fred Karger doubled his support -- and may have earned the right to join the Iowa debate. Buddy Roemer's decided that Comedy Central may be the best forum for his views. And what on earth is Rick Santorum pledging to distribute at Ames? To find out all of this and more, please feel free to enter the Speculatron for the week of August 5, 2011.
For Michele Bachmann, another week at the top of the heap made for a lot of repetition. She's still beefing with Tim Pawlenty. She's still at war with gay people, because they keep "harassing" the Family Bachmann for being constantly hostile to their interests. As a result, she's still affixing her signature to every anti-gay pledge she can get her hands on, and dodging questions about her family business of ex-gay crank therapy. She's also still terrified of modernity -- high-quality, energy-efficient lightbulbs that save ordinary people money and fast-moving trains that save ordinary people time remain existential threats to America, and freedom, as far as she's concerned. That doesn't mean that the week didn't contain some new spice. Jon Huntsman, for example, scandalized himself when he called Bachmann "photogenic." So, that happened, in America. Also happening in America, of course, was the final act of the Debt Ceiling Kabuki, a matter that compelled Bachmann to leave Iowa and return to Washington in order to participate in the end of functional government, forever. Of course, the deal that was wrought was not good enough for Bachmann. She cast her vote against it on the grounds that the end of functional government wasn't sufficient unless it was combined with a default that would also cause the end of the global economy. To make up for her absence, Bachmann spent money on an Iowa ad buy, where she reminded Iowans that she would have preferred that whole destruction-of-civilization-through-a-Treasury-default outcome, "Believe it!" Yes, heroes, it's always worth remembering that Bachmann just doesn't have even an elementary grasp of economic basics. And she's taken the appropriate steps to ensure her grasp of foreign affairs matches her grasp of the domestic, by signing professional anti-Muslim crankjob Frank Gaffney as an adviser. (Gaffney trusts Bachmann to identify and eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of America, don't you know! Maybe they will also fight poltergeists, and capture the chupacabra as well!) But in this day and age, all of this makes her all the more endearing to the GOP base. There seems to be only one thing that could erode her support, and that's if Rick Perry decides to jump into the race. Polls that treat Perry as a serious possiblity continue to return decent results for the Texas governor. Quinnipiac, for example, finds Perry cutting into Bachmann's support fairly significantly in the critical state of Florida. This is why Bachmann's campaign manager Ed Rollins is asking Perry to please, please, please "stay in Texas" -- forever, if need be.
Last week, Herman Cain was meeting with actual Muslim-Americans, and coming to the subsequent conclusion that they weren't such bad people after all. And so he apologized for saying mean things about them. What can one say? This is a good thing all around! Of course, now Michele Bachmann's anti-Muslim crank advisor Frank Gaffney is screeching about how Cain was taken in by "TEH MOOSLIN BROTHAHOOD OMG!" Oh no! The Herman Cain Train is heading right into Manchurian Candidate Station! As Scott Keyes points out, this puts Cain into some esteemed company: "Cain joins a long list of prominent figures that Gaffney accuses of working with the Muslim Brotherhood, including CPAC, Grover Norquist, David Petraeus, the federal government, and Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan." Cain can probably shrug off Gaffney's ravings, however, because this week, he notched another one of those straw poll wins. In crushing fashion, Cain took the top spot in the Western Conservative Summit presidential straw poll, receiving nearly half of all votes cast, and beating the second place finisher, Rick Perry, by 179 votes. If Cain posts a result that's half as good at the Ames Straw Poll, his momentum -- now somewhat stalled -- could very well return to post-South Carolina debate levels.
Newt Gingrich's fake presidential campaign to move sales of Gingrich themed books and movies would have continued in it's sludgy, sodden, wholly irrelevant pace today, were it not for a strange, picayune tempest that actually got people discussing the Gingrich candidacy in terms far more complex than it deserves. It all began when Gingrich, who's well short on anything that indicates his run for the White House matters to anyone, pointed at his huge number of Twitter followers and went all scoreboard-crazy, pointing out that his 1.3 million followers were better than anyone else in the field. Now, one day, political writers are going to be a lot less enthralled with twitter followers, and subsequently, anyone bragging about this will just be ignored. But this got Gingrich a write-up in Politico, who opined: "Newt Gingrich might be languishing far behind in the polls, but if there were a Twitter primary, the former House speaker would be the runaway winner." Well, a backlash soon ensued, when a "former staffer" told Gawker that most of those Twitter followers were fake, and that the candidate "hired a firm to boost his follower count, in part by creating fake accounts en masse." Suddenly, the whole world was scrutinizing this claims! The good news, though, is that if we had to have this discussion, in America, at least the quality of the scrutinizers tended to rise. Dan Amira, for example, pointed out that a 2009 New York Times article had a better explanation of how Gingrich got so many followers: In the last few months [Twitter] has plucked a few hundred users from a sea of more than 30 million and put them on its A-list, deeming them particularly worthy of being followed. In separating the wheat from the chaff, Twitter has become a kingmaker of sorts, conferring online stardom to a mix of writers, gadget geeks, political commentators and entrepreneurs. After being named to the "suggested user" list, Twitterers can gain more than 500,000 followers who get their brief updates via a cellphone or the Internet. Gingrich was one of the lucky Twitterers who got put on this A-list. And yes, presence on that particular list of recommended accounts typically leads to getting a lot of spam followers. And people who sign up for a Twitter account, only to get bored after a short while, are the same sort of Twitter clients who follow the recommended users, ensuring the most generic Twitter experience possible. Dave Weigel also backed up the countering claim: A great accusation, one that fits with the theme of "Newt 2012: The Campaign That Does Everything Wrong, and Expensively So." But there aren't any facts backing it up. What are these "variety of agencies" that Newt allegedly pays? The source doesn't say, neither do the campaign's finance reports. As Weigel notes, Gingrich "was well over 1 million followers at the start of 2011, before he staffed up his campaign, and long before he launched it." So that was a fun, little, nothing-burger of a mini-scandal! Next time someone says that their Twitter follower count makes them King Shit Of Poop Mountain, we recommend just laughing and moving on with your life. In other Gingrich news, despite his warnings that America's future depends on American menufacturing, he's getting his T-shirts made in Central America. This T-Shirt outsourcing thing is having a moment! Per Alex Seitz-Wald: While Gingrich is right to call for more American manufacturing, he apparently isn't interested in contributing to this vital industry himself, as his campaign's t-shirts are made in El Salvador, ABC News discovered last week. His campaign blamed the embarrassing fact on the campaign's "volunteers." "That's a pretty inexcusable freshman campaign mistake," Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing said of Gingrich and the other GOP presidential candidates whose swag is not "Made in the U.S.A." Also, Newt Gingrich doesn't seem to be too clued in to the economic policies of Paul Krugman, and President Barack Obama's resolute desire to not see any of them employed on behalf of the economy.
Oh, man! Big news in the Jon Huntsman campaign this week, with a Politico report from Jonathan Martin detailing how the former Utah governor's entire campaign team was living through an extended period of sniping and backbiting and straight up melodrama! "Blistering internal feuds!" Family members aggrieved! Staffers alienated! And everyone piling on campaign manager John Weaver! It all stemmed from the confessions of disgruntled staffer David Fischer, who had a tale to tell of "verbal abuse" and Weaver "attacking the candidate" when things went wrong. A bunch of anonymous sources confirmed Fischer's story. A campaign spokesman shot back: "Dave Fischer tried to threaten the campaign regarding his participation in this story, and we refused to cooperate with him," said spokesman Tim Miller. "As a volunteer staff member, he attempted to usurp authority, asked inappropriate questions about junior staff and was rightly asked to leave by Gov. Huntsman. His statements about this campaign are untrue. The fact that he would be willing to undermine Gov. Huntsman in this way says everything you need to know about his character, his credibility and whether he has the governor's best interests at heart." And this is just the tip of the iceberg! Go read the whole thing, and then ask yourself: Who would have thought that a campaign that's so exclusively devoted to gauziness could have so many problems? At any rate, as our own Jon Ward reports, Huntsman's next move was to show support for Weaver. Hope you enjoy the view from under the bus, Dave Fischer! The next person to join you will probably be whoever keeps misspelling Huntsman's name. The other major news this week, in terms of the Huntsman campaign, is that he thinks Michele Bachmann is attractive-looking. So, that became a thing, too. Here's your update on Huntsman taking positions that will alienate him from the 2012 GOP base: he likes the debt ceiling deal that was reached this week, calling it a "positive step." He also believes that every state in America has the right to make same-sex marriage legal, should they choose to. See you toward the bottom of the polls, Jon!
Gary Johnson is one of many third-tier candidates mired in the Single-Digit Basement. But Johnson says that this means he has this race by the balls! Per Tim Murphy, of Mother Jones: But if you ask Gary Johnson, he is exactly where he wants to be. "The vantage point that I have is the only vantage point that I've ever had in politics, which is being last," Johnson explained on Friday following an address to the National Conference of College Republicans in downtown Washington. "I've run for two political offices in my life: governor of New Mexico, and reelection as governor of New Mexico. This was just where I was in New Mexico." [...] "You need to understand yourself whether or not you have momentum," Johnson says. "If you can't ascertain that, why, that's kind of the key to life. You can't kid yourself: Either you have it, or you don't have it. And exceeding expectations would be exceeding what people are expecting of you." And does Johnson have momentum? "Oh, yeah. I'm not expecting anyone to know that, and I don't want to sound silly for saying that's something that I have when others wouldn't acknowledge it at all, but again this is very corollary to having run for governor of New Mexico. The primary was in June of 1994. In February they did a poll in New Mexico, asking who would you vote for on the Republican ticket? And I got 2 percent of the votes. We were ecstatic." Johnson's not sure what those expectations will be, but he suggests that somewhere in the top four in libertarian New Hampshire would be a start. His plan is to focus all of his energy on the Granite State for the next 6 1/2 months, skipping, for the most part, Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses. It's all about the power of positive thinking and skipping Iowa! Go read the whole thing. And then wonder aloud how he is going to manufacture some momentum if he keeps being left out of debates.
When we last left Fred Karger, he was totally chuffed at being tied with Newt Gingrich in the Zogby Poll. Sure, that result probably tells you more about Gingrich's misfortunes than it does about Karger's successes, but at the very least, Fred's getting it done without a million fake Twitter followers. But this week ends with a dose of good news for the Karger campaign. The latest Harris Interactive poll finds that Karger has doubled his support and now boasts a robust 2%. He's off like a rocket and tied with Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman. (He's ahead of Rick Santorum, Gary Johnson, Thad McCotter, and Buddy Roemer.) According to the criteria of Fox's debate next week, candidates must "[garner] at least an average of one percent in five national polls based on most recent polling leading up to the registration day." Karger is able to argue that he's done that. Karger's camp has fired off a letter to Fox News, claiming the right to participate. We'll wait and see if his suit is successful. In the meanwhile, Karger is going all out in New Hampshire. He's hanging out with the people of Concord, handing out frisbees, talking up education reform and corporate taxes. He helped clean up a beach with the Blue Ocean Society in Rye. He will be a guest judge at a karaoke contest in Keene, on Friday, one day before he walks around town, with a bagpiper in tow, for reasons that exceed our understanding at the moment!
Look who got himself a campaign office! Thad McCotter, that's who! (We remind you that "Thad McCotter" is a Republican representative from Michigan who is running for president, maybe because he's just bored!) McCotter, having just come through the oft-times contentious debate over how badly everyone should destroy America by holding the debt ceiling hostage, called for a "truce" this week between Republicans and Tea Party members. That's kind of weird, because their similarity was never more pronounced than during a week when the self-described Tea Party set in Congress tended to split on the debt ceiling vote in the same proportion as the caucus as a whole, but whatever! The point is that people should stop calling each other names: "On the right, take note," McCotter said on the House floor. "It is as unwarranted and injurious for a Republican to call a Tea Partier a hobbit as it is for a Tea Partier to call a Republican a RINO." Since when did it become "injurious" to call someone a "hobbit?" In the world of Middle Earth, hobbits are sturdy folk who love nature and who, from time to time, step up to face dire ordeals in order to save the world. Of course, we suppose that they are in this way dissimilar from the Tea Party -- it's not like Frodo said, "You know, maybe we should default on Middle Earth and give Sauron a try!" -- hence the "injury." Anyway, Thad McCotter will get the first test of his campaign's viability in the upcoming Ames Straw Poll, where his name will appear on the ballot. Because of all the ridiculous rules, however, it looks like he will be shut out of the debate in Iowa that immediately precedes the straw poll.
Where did Rep. Ron Paul come down on this week's debt ceiling deal? Do you really have to ask? Congress didn't decide to leave the whole matter fully exposed to the vagaries of the "free market" and allow all of human society to descend into atavism, did they? So naturally, Paul was against it: "While it is good to see serious debate about our debt crisis, I cannot support the reported deal on raising the nation's debt ceiling. I have never voted to raise the debt ceiling, and I never will. Okay, glad we cleared that up! Son Rand also got into the act, sending New Hampshire voters a mailer in which the younger Paul touted his dad's stout consistency on policy matters: "One of the things has always made me most proud of my Dad is that he is the same in private as in public -- strong in his beliefs and sure in his convictions." He also went on to fire some shots at the presumed frontrunner: Supporting more of the status quo's defenders -- whether they are Democrats or Republicans -- will surely deepen our debt crisis and permanently cripple our economy...It also isn't time to elect people who wake up every day wondering what they believe. And it surely isn't time to elect someone who passed the blueprint for ObamaCare while Governor of Massachusetts. Paul is also one of the GOP candidates caught up in the outsourced T-shirts controversy, except Paul isn't about to concede that there's anything controversial about it: "I wasn't aware of it ... but I wouldn't change it," said Paul. "I would argue the case that the market should determine it." Ron Paul to American manufacturers: "Drop dead!" Oh, what's that? You say so many of you are well on your way to dying anyway? THEN THE SYSTEM WORKS.
Tim Pawlenty remains in a trap -- you can't really talk about his campaign without also noting how bad things are going for it! Yet the former Minnesota governor keeps working as hard as he can. He's got a sizable Iowa operation engaged. There's every hope that he might perform well enough at the Ames Straw Poll. But mixed messages continue to abound. Sometimes Pawlenty is very optimistic about his chances. At other times, he's quick to remind everyone that there's no reason in the world to be optimistic. And that makes some sense, considering that the candidate is apparently so skint at the moment that there's not enough money to put up any ads ahead of the straw poll. Everything has been reduced to spin and expectations-management skullduggery. But there's little choice left at this point: Pawlenty may not be deemed viable at any level if he doesn't show some life at Ames -- this is how he gets his ticket punched to ... well, just continue participating. (Last time we checked, Pawlenty was prepared to deem a sixth place finish "successful.") The debt ceiling debate allowed Pawlenty to spend some brief time outside of his Ames Straw Poll hole. Naturally, he was against the deal that was wrought. And not surprisingly, he's still clutching whatever bogus economic talking points he can use, just to get him through the day. It also turns out that Pawlenty's Iowa campaign team is part of the clapped-out lobbyist machine that "Beltway outsiders" like to pretend to decry, while they are actually speed-dating them. Per Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register: An air-conditioned "igloo" paid for by the Iowa Energy Forum will rise up from the straw poll campus in Ames next month, an attraction meant to woo Iowans' affection with free treats, kids' rides and displays about energy technology. The Republican Party of Iowa has received $100,000 from the organization, which is financed by the country's largest oil industry trade group. The Iowa Energy Forum's agenda? Energy security, and no new taxes on the oil or natural gas industries. Its website mentions renewable energy, but stresses that the country will require oil, natural gas and coal as energy sources for decades. Small print reveals the American Petroleum Institute is the sponsor. Another big group paying for buses to truck people to the Aug. 13 straw poll is Strong America Now, a nonprofit financed by a Texas businessman pushing for federal debt reduction. It paid $60,000 for tent space and the names of previous caucusgoers and straw poll voters. The groups are part of the campaign within the campaign at the straw poll -- advocacy organizations seeking to draw the attention of candidates, the media and Iowans to their policy issues. But the efforts of these two groups are drawing scrutiny. One wrinkle is that the paid Iowa organizers for both Strong America Now and the Iowa Energy Forum wear two hats: They also are or have been paid consultants for the Tim Pawlenty presidential campaign. That raises suspicions from rival campaign operatives, who worry Pawlenty could see a straw poll advantage. While rival campaigns fret about the straw poll advantage, ordinary Americans worry about candidates being bought off by powerful moneyed industry interests. In other news that won't surprise you in the least, Tim Pawlenty is still terrified of saying anything mean about Mitt Romney.
Last week, Buddy Roemer enjoyed the most significant development in the history of his presidential campaign -- he got to make an appearance on The Colbert Report. And it went pretty well, honestly! So Roemer's going to take another bite out of the Comedy Central apple and take his act to The Daily Show. Could the guy who's talking about the pernicious effect of corporate money in politics end up being 2012's "sanity" candidate? Roemer will put himself -- and Jon Stewart! -- to the test on that regard. That's the best thing Buddy has going for him. No one wants him in the Iowa debate. (Probably because he'll spend a lot of time talking about the pernicious effect of corporate money in politics!)
According to "political insiders," it's looking more and more like Rick Perry could end up being Mitt Romney's chief competition, should he enter the race. (The underlying presumption here is that Perry would absorb a lot of Bachmann's support and cross-over strongly with establishment voters who prefer to tout Texas' "minimum wage miracle" as the model for our economic future.) That's all well and good, but how many Perry allies have the capability of incorporating themselves for a few weeks, making seven-figure donations, and then vanishing into the night before federal election regulators know what's going on? A mystery company that pumped $1 million into a political committee backing Mitt Romney has been dissolved just months after it was formed, leaving few clues as to who was behind one of the biggest contributions yet of the 2012 presidential campaign. That's from Michael Isikoff, who tells the incredibly true story of W Spann LLC, which seems to have been formed for the exclusive purpose of laundering a large donation to Romney's Super PAC, and then, its mission completed, disappeared again into the ether. Welcome to your campaign finance future, America! Remember, though, money is "free speech!" Why haven't all you poor people incorporated yourself, to send your favorite candidates some crafts you made out of mud and twigs? Here's my favorite part of Isikoff's story: "I don't see how you can do this," said Lawrence Noble, the former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission, when asked about the contribution from the now defunct company. I think that "how you do it" is you exploit a regulatory structure that's outmanned, outgunned and underfunded because that's the status quo that people in power prefer, but that's just my hunch! Elsewhere in the world of covering Mitt Romney, reporters were apparently aggrieved that the candidate wasn't doing a whole lot of campaigning, or orating, or otherwise giving them a shiny ball with which to bat around mindlessly. Politico spent a day trying to make "Mittness Protection Program" happen, in protest to the lack of Pavlovian stimulus it was receiving. It seems to us that there was plenty of Romney arcana to cover, if you bothered to try looking for it. He wasn't happy with the debt ceiling deal, for instance! And as you might expect, he only clarified his position long after everything had been decided. His rival candidates and pundits alike blasted Romney for staying aloof until after the deal was done. Joe Klein called it "cowardice" and Ruth Marcus said he "failed the leadership test." Oh, shut up, crybabies. As Alex Pareene pointed out, "But that is the point of running for president while no longer holding office! You can come up with any stupid position you want, but you also don't have to come up with any position at all until you figure out what the rubes want to hear." Yeah, Romney waited until everything was done to take a stand, but the game he's playing is that he's trying to keep relations between his campaign and GOP lawmakers crisp and cordial. He came out against the debt deal at the smartest possible time -- when his opinion wouldn't put any pressure on the people who were actually working at dealmaking. Call him a coward if you want, he'll just point to his name atop the polls and ask you if you've got any more great political advice. At any rate, the Romney team has promised to start handing out those shiny, shiny balls soon enough. And they will be of the shiniest and best-loved variety among Beltway reporters -- economic critiques that allow people to discuss America's ongoing calamity as something that primarily effects President Barack Obama. Romney will give every political reporter the opportunity to treat the real victims of the economic downturn as abstractions, and give them plenty to do so they don't have to actually go out into the wild and start contending with ordinary humans. Romney knows how to butter everyone's bread. He also knows that signing up Robert Bork as an adviser will help him build more of the establishment cred that his previous campaign for the White House was lacking.
Oh, people. We could tell you all about how Rick Santorum took a shot at his rivals over the debt ceiling deal, or how he thinks early childhood education programs are conspiracy-plots to indoctrinate the children. We can remind you for the umpteenth time that he thinks gay people are bad and that he wants them to feel bad -- though not so badly that he'll follow through on a personal promise to hand deliver the pain. We could mock him for claiming that discussing Dan Savage was "below the dignity of anybody" a week after he made a fundraising beg on the topic of Dan Savage. But we'd rather tell you that one headline you hate to see show up on your laptop screen is "Santorum To Give Out Free Jelly At Ames." Yuck. We don't think we're ready for this jelly.
This week, President Barack Obama celebrated his 50th birthday, but while the occasion provides another opportunity to mock the idiot Birthers, that's the only good news to be had. The debt ceiling deal has ushered in a new period of economic turmoil and governmental dysfunction. It both robs the White House of the tools it could deploy to help the economy, and ensures that future episodes of hostage-taking will become the norm. Anger over the debt ceiling fiasco is spread far and wide and it spares no one -- congressional Republicans actually get hit the hardest. But it's a falling tide that wrecks all boats. Fussypants political gurus who get paid to blather had offered that by agreeing to a debt ceiling deal, Obama would impress independent voters by proving himself to be the "adult in the room." So far, that appears to be bunk. And Obama's support is eroding in key swing states -- Romney currently owns him in Pennsylvania, and you're going to stop hearing about how Rick Scott's unpopularity is going to help Obama win Florida very soon. Naturally, it's far too early to put much stock in these polls. But the news isn't likely to get any better. Here's the big, looming, potential disaster on the horizon: "The Economic Policy Institute, a top nonpartisan think tank, estimates that the deal struck this weekend to raise the nation's debt limit will end up costing the economy 1.8 million jobs by 2012." Of course, many people believe that a lot depends on who Obama draws as an opponent. Certainly the way he and his eventual opponent match up on the campaign trail is going to be a huge factor that we can't account for at the moment. But last night, as Al Sharpton signed off wishing that Sarah Palin would run for president -- the premise being that she could win the nomination and then easily lose the general election -- we were struck by the thought: What does it say about the administration that its best hopes are tied to drawing the worst possible opponent? If Obama's partisans aren't confident that the president can match up with the best possible opponent and the absolute top of his or her game, then they aren't very confident at all. As Matt Yglesias reminds us, the immutable fact is that as long as the economy remains in dire tatters, "electability" is a mutable concept: I'm very open to the argument that someone like a Michele Bachmann, who clearly lacks the basic resume of an ordinary major party presidential candidate, might prove to be a serious outlier who overturns everything we think we know about Presidential politics. But Perry is the long-time governor of America's second-largest state. He's exactly the sort of person who wins presidential elections. If the economy recovers in 2012 and Obama's policies look vindicated, Perry will of course lose. But if we double dip, then why shouldn't Perry win? (By the way, the economy is going to remain in dire tatters, for the time being.)
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