By Art Gallagher
With Repubican Randy Altschuler’s concession on Tuesday to incumbent Congressman Tim Bishop in New York’s 1st congressional district, the 2010 midterm elections have come to a close. Republicans picked up 63 seats while taking control of the House of Representatives, and picked up 6 seats in the U.S. Senate.
The 2010 midterms have frequently been compared to the 1994 midterms when Newt Gingrich lead the House GOP to pick up 54 seats, while Republicans picked up 8 U.S. Senate seats and controlled both houses of Congress for the first time since 1954.
With the midterms behind us pundits and political junkies are shifting their focus to the 2012 Presidential election. Many have pondered whether President Obama will move to the center ala Bill Clinton after the massive loss in the ’94 midterms, “triangulating” Republicans, Independents and their issues on his way to a scandal plaqued second term, or will Obama finish out his term like Jimmy Carter, dogged by a stagflation economy, unrest in the Middle East and challenged by the left in his own party.
My friend Alan Steinberg argues that Obama’s recent deal with Congressional Republicans to extend the Bush-era tax rates for two years ehances the President’s reelection prospects because of the likely improvement in the economy that will result. Steinberg says that the far left wing of the Democratic party condeming Obama for the deal will also help him by making him look like a centrist. Steinberg says an Obama primary victory over a left wing opponent like Howard Dean would boost the President further with an aura of success and centrism.
Alan overlooks the historical fact that every incumbent President since Gerald Ford who faced a credible primary challenge won the primary but lost the general election. Ford was challenged by Ronald Reagan in the 1976 GOP primary and lost the election to Jimmy Carter. Carter was challenged in the 1980 Democratic party by Ted Kennedy and lost the election to Reagan. George H.W. Bush was challenged by Pat Buchanan in the 1992 GOP primary and lost the election to Bill Clinton.
Taxes could well be the issue that dominates the 2012 election. Just as George H.W. Bush’s broken “NO NEW TAXES” pledge cost him dearly with the Republican base that never revered him like they did Reagan, Obama’s broken pledge to raise taxes on the rich and redistribute wealth could yet cost him dearly with his Democratic base. Just as Bush I was no Reagan, Obama may prove to be no Clinton. Clinton, despite moving away from his leftist base, “felt their pain” in 1996. So far Obama’s message to “the professional left” is “you are a pain.”
Should a Democrat like Dean or Hillary Clinton really become a pain and challenge Obama in the primary he or she might argue that the Clinton era tax increases on the wealthy lead to a booming ecomony, the first balanced federal budget in memory and even a surplus.
Of course such a Democrat will ignore the fact that the Clinton 1993 tax increases did not boost the economy as Democrats had expected it would. The “Clinton boom” and balanced budgets didn’t occur until after 1997 when the Republican Congress lowered the capital gains tax rates, added a child credit, lowered the death tax and increased the IRA exclusions.
There is another development on the horizon that might make the 2012 election look more like ’92 when Bill Clinton defeated Bush I, than like ’96 when Clinton was reelected over Bob Dole or like 1980 when Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter.
New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg might end up the 2012 version of H. Ross Perot, the billionaire businessman who ran for President as a third party candidate against Bush I and Clinton in 1992, capturing 19% of the popular vote, and many think Bush I a second term.
Bloomberg sounded an a lot like a presidential candidate yesterday when he bashed both major political parties, Washington gridlock and offered a “centrist way” to fix America. Perot built the Reform Party in 1996. Bloomberg would embrace the No Labels movement of centrists that has been building a grassroots organization over the last year. No Labels will have a major event, their “official launch,” in New York of all places on Monday December 13. The event will be simulcast in the Internet on Monday December 13.
The other factor making 2012 look like 1996 in my crystal ball is the Republican field of Presidential contenders. So far only New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has the charisma of a Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton or candidate Obama. Christie says he’s not running. I believe him. He will have his hands full in New Jersey in 2011, making the kind of national travel throughout the year that would be required to compete in the GOP primaries that start in February of 2012 very unlikely. The rest of the Republican field doesn’t have “it.” They are reminiscent of Bush I, Bob Dole and John McCain.
In a head to head race of Obama vs a current Republican contender other than Christie, Obama would have to be favored at this point, assuming he keeps moving to the center. If Bloomberg runs as a No Labels candidate and spends the $1.5 billion that has been speculated, history could be made rather than repeated.Posted: December 9th, 2010 | Author: Art Gallagher | Filed under: 2012 Presidential Politics | Tags: 2012, Barack Obama, Chris Christie, Howard Dean, Mike Bloomberg, No Labels, Presidental politics | 4 Comments »