While political analysts on both side of the aisle believe that the debt ceiling deal has the potential to emerge as a key issue in the 2012 presidential election, others contend that the economy and jobs will overshadow it and make Barack Obama a one-term president.
Political strategists from both parties say that the deal, which Obama signed into law Tuesday, draws a line — with Republicans standing for smaller government, balanced budgets, and no taxes and the Democrats for what Obama has called the balanced approach of new revenue, budget cuts, and the protection of Social Security and Medicare.
“This had nothing to do with the debt ceiling,” former Republican Congressman Mickey Edwards told The Washington Post. “This was about the 2012 election, and the lines were drawn about as clearly as possible on both sides.”
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Obama strategist David Axelrod said the deal crystallized the debate, adding, that there “is no doubt there will be a very distinct choice.”
University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato isn’t so sure. “It's 15 months to the election,” he said. “People always say, ‘We'll remember in November.’ But will they? My guess is that jobs and the lack of economic growth will supersede the debt debate.”
Next year’s election will be a “national referendum” on Obama, and jobs and economic growth will be the keys, said Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
“It’s thumbs up or thumbs down on his performance,” he said. “We all know it would be thumbs down today. The clock is ticking. Unemployment won’t improve much so his hopes rest on a spurt in GDP. There’s really very little Obama can do at this point to affect jobs and GDP. He’s stuck — and simply has to ‘hope’ that the status quo will ‘change.’”
“Obviously, the other factor is the GOP nominee,” Sabato said. “Republicans have to nominate a mainstream candidate that independents/swing voters can actually rally around.”
Although the deal was reached between Obama, the Republican-controlled House and Democratic Senate, it has been soundly rejected by key members of the GOP presidential field, including Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who were opposed to any increase in the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Bachmann called Obama’s balanced approach “code for increased spending and taxes." Romney said that, as “president, my plan would have produced a budget that was cut, capped and balanced — not one that opens the door to higher taxes and puts defense cuts on the table. While I appreciate the extraordinarily difficult situation President Obama’s lack of leadership has placed Republican members of Congress in, I personally cannot support this deal.”
Despite the conventional wisdom in D.C. that Obama came out a loser in the deal, former New Hampshire GOP Sen. Judd Gregg said the president “did very well here” and the deal will have a huge effect on his re-election bid.
Gregg told The Washington Times that before the deal, the GOP had jobs, the debt, the deficit and spending to hammer the president with and the deal, which will cut $900 billion in spending, leaves them with just one: jobs.
"He's taken three of those four issues off the table, or at least muted them,” Gregg said. "He's gotten a political win."
However, Sabato said Obama’s appearance on TV Sunday tells the story. “He looked awful. That’s says it all,” he said. “Yes, he got some things out of the deal, but he knows full well the left is furious—and he wanted the ‘grand bargain’ for his legacy.”
Editor's Note: Economic Meltdown to Unravel in 2012.
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