Dead last in GOP de­bate: Barack Obama

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

The lead­ing con­tenders for the 2012 Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion showed their stuff in a na­tion­ally tele­vised de­bate in New Hamp­shire June 13, and they weren’t the “weak field” some polls had sug­gested.

If there was a com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor that per­me­ated the two-hour de­bate, it was the can­di­dates’ col­lec­tive strat­egy to train all of their po­lit­i­cal fire­power on Pres­i­dent Obama: his fail­ure to re­store ro­bust eco­nomic growth, his fail­ure to lead in for­eign pol­icy and his spend­thrift poli­cies that have plunged the coun­try into un­fath­omable debt.

This was a big dis­ap­point­ment to the na­tional news me­dia and the well-paid TV an­a­lysts who hoped the can­di­dates would start beat­ing up each other, but it wasn’t for lack of try­ing.

For a cou­ple of weeks or more, the ex­pec­ta­tion was that some of the par­tic­i­pants would gang up on Mitt Rom­ney for the “Rom­n­ey­care” plan he en­acted as gov­er­nor of Mas­sachusetts. John King, CNN’s mod­er­a­tor of the de­bate, tried to coax for­mer Min­nesota Gov. Tim Paw­lenty into at­tack­ing the Mas­sachu- setts health care law he has dubbed “Obam­n­ey­care,” but he wasn’t bit­ing.

These can­di­dates, front-run­ners and dark horses alike, had only one goal in mind from the mo­ment they bolted from the gate: Cut Mr. Obama down to size, and they did it with rel­ish.

Bran­dish­ing his busi­ness cre­den­tials as a suc­cess­ful ven­ture cap­i­tal in­vestor who helped dozens of start-up com­pa­nies, Mr. Rom­ney went af­ter Mr. Obama for at­tempt­ing to pick the econ­omy’s win­ners and losers with dis­as­trous re­sults.

“There is a per­cep­tion in this coun­try that the gov­ern­ment knows bet­ter than the pri­vate sec­tor, that Wash­ing­ton and Pres­i­dent Obama have a bet­ter view of how an in­dus­try ought to run,” Mr. Rom­ney said. He kept ham­mer­ing away through­out the two-hour de­bate on the nearly 20 mil­lion unem­ployed or un­der­em­ployed Amer­i­cans and Mr. Obama’s fail­ure to turn the econ­omy around. If any­thing, he has made the econ­omy worse, Mr. Rom­ney said.

De­fend­ing his sweep­ing tax­cut plan to sharply boost eco­nomic ex­pan­sion and job cre­ation, Mr. Paw­lenty said, “This idea that we can’t have 5 per­cent growth in Amer­ica is hog- wash,” not­ing the Rea­gan tax cuts in the 1980s led to nearly 25 years of vir­tu­ally un­in­ter­rupted eco­nomic growth.

For­mer House Speaker Newt Gingrich, at­tempt­ing to get his cam­paign back on its feet af­ter the mass res­ig­na­tion of his top staff, showed why he re­mains one of the most scin­til­lat­ing speak­ers on the cam­paign trail.

“The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is an anti-jobs, anti-busi­ness, anti-Amer­i­can, en­ergy-de­struc­tive force. This is a de­pres­sion.”

Rep. Michele Bach­mann of Min­nesota, who chairs the Tea Party Cau­cus in the House, flatly pre­dicted Mr. Obama would be a one-term pres­i­dent and showed why her com­bat­ive style has made her one of the most pop­u­lar Repub­li­can fig­ures on the talk-show cir­cuit. She called for “bring­ing the tax rates down and pass­ing the mother of all reg­u­la­tory re­peal bills.”

The oth­ers — for­mer Penn­syl­va­nia Sen. Rick San­to­rum, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and for­mer God­fa­ther’s Pizza ex­ec­u­tive Her­man Cain — re­main very long shots. But one or two oth­ers may yet en­ter the field, in­clud­ing for­mer Gov. Jon Hunts­man Jr. of Utah and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, pos­si­bly dou­bling the num­ber of gov­er­nors seek­ing the nom­i­na­tion.

Mean­time, the Gallup Poll re­leased a spate of new num­bers on June 14 that sig­nif­i­cantly boosted Mr. Rom­ney’s chances in the GOP sweep­stakes but de­liv­ered more bad news to the White House on the econ­omy.

A Gallup poll taken be­tween June 8 and June 11 showed Repub­li­can sup­port for Mr. Rom­ney climb­ing from 17 per­cent in late May to 24 per­cent, widen­ing his lead over Sarah Palin (16 per­cent), who has not said whether she will be a can­di­date.

All other con­tenders or po­ten­tial con­tenders are buried in sin­gle dig­its.

But as Mr. Obama and his ad­vis­ers con­tin­ued to strug­gle last week in the face of a per­sis­tently dis­mal econ­omy, un­able to come up with a vi­able eco­nomic plan to get it back on track, Gallup re­ported that its eco­nomic con­fi­dence in­dex was in a free fall.

“A sharp de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in the jobs out­look and six straight weeks of Wall Street de­clines sent Amer­i­cans’ con­fi­dence in the econ­omy plung­ing to an av­er­age of mi­nus 35 dur­ing the week end­ing June 12 — a de- cline of 9 per­cent­age points from two weeks ago and six points worse than it was in the same week a year ago,” Gallup said.

Just 30 per­cent of Amer­i­cans sur­veyed said the econ­omy was get­ting bet­ter, down from 37 per­cent in May, near­ing the low for the year. Nearly half of all those polled (47 per­cent) said cur­rent eco­nomic con­di­tions were poor. “These rat­ings are three points worse than the pre­vi­ous week and three points lower than a year ago,” Gallup said.

But these num­bers rep­re­sent some­thing much more than just the lat­est po­lit­i­cal trend. When busi­nesses and peo­ple lose con­fi­dence in their lead­ers and their nation’s econ­omy, they be­gin cut­ting back, spend­ing less and in­vest­ing less, and that eco­nomic pes­simism feeds upon it­self.

In 2008, Amer­i­cans voted for an in­ex­pe­ri­enced can­di­date on the ba­sis of hope. Now they are con­clud­ing that the man they elected to fix the econ­omy doesn’t have a clue.

Don­ald Lam­bro is a syn­di­cated colum­nist and for­mer chief po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent for The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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