Friday, December 23, 2011
Obama may have won a 'tactical victory' in the kerfuffle over the extension of the payroll tax cut, but so what?
The only people paying attention right now are inside-Beltway types and political partisans, all of whom have already made up their mind on who they're going to vote for next November. The mushy middle isn't paying attention, they're busy working and buying presents for Christmas and looking forward to this weekend's football games. All of the Washington back and forth was (and remains) background static to them. None of their taxes went up, none of their paychecks went down. To these people, this whole thing has just been more of the same... Democrats and Republicans arguing about something that they aren't following. None of these less-engaged voters are going to make up their minds on who to vote for based on this. Nor are any of them going to change their minds about how they view the respective parties.
Second, as much as he might like to, Obama isn't running against the House Republicans. He will be running against a GOP candidate (probably Romney) who isn't in the House and is free to disassociate himself from any truly unpopular positions taken by the more conservative House GOP. Obama is going to have to sell the public on why he is better than the GOP candidate and I'm sure the GOP candidate will keep the focus where it should be.
Third, any victory is going to be short lived. What does Obama think is going to happen in two months when the tax cut comes up for expiration again? There's no way it won't get renewed again. Thus, Obama is going to be in the position of arguing for the very same thing that the House GOP is arguing for now. How is Obama going to separate himself from that? By arguing that it was wrong to extent the cut for a full year now, but that circumstances have changed in the two months, thus necessitating a full year extension?
So my advice to anyone who is discouraged about how things have turned out is to lighten up. Sure, the GOP misplayed their hand, but they did so in what is effectively a pre-season scrimmage that nobody watched and in which their star player wasn't even on the field. It will have far less impact that Obama's cheerleaders would like.