Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses, and Romney is expected to do well tomorrow in the New Hampshire primary. But the presidential candidate who’s faring best so far in the Republican campaign is Barack Obama.
Republican candidates and party leaders are directing their heaviest rhetorical fire at one another instead of at the failed President they will ultimately need to defeat. Last week, President Obama appointed a new head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and new members to the National Labor Relations Board. Obama defied precedent and the Constitution by making these appointments without the consent of Congress. Such appointments, sometimes called recess appointments, have in the past taken place only when both houses of Congress are officially out of session. But Obama acted while the House had not yet officially adjourned.
Left-wing bloggers cheered the appointments as evidence of a “new Obama” determined to push through his agenda by whatever means necessary. “No More Mr. Nice Obama,” taunted the leftist American Prospect.
But most voters probably didn’t hear about the controversy surrounding the appointments, because the news cycle was dominated by Republican infighting. Again and again, Republican primary voters tell pollsters and reporters that they want a candidate who’s able and unafraid to take on President Obama. But the Republican candidates increasingly seem more interested in taking on one another.
In just the last week, Newt Gingrich has suggested that he may stay in the race for the sole purpose of ensuring that Romney loses, a pro-Jon Huntsman super PAC (political action committee) began spending $300,000 of airtime in New Hampshire for an ad that labels Romney a chameleon, and Ron Paul has been busy calling out Santorum as “too liberal” to be President.
I understand that the candidates need to make distinctions between themselves and their rivals. But such distinctions should be presented in the context of trying to persuade voters why they would be better able to take on and defeat Barack Obama.
Notwithstanding Ron Paul’s foreign policy extremism, this group of Republican candidates is a relatively homogeneous bunch. They all support repeal of ObamaCare and low taxes. They all espouse a pro-life viewpoint and a strong military.
That’s not to say there aren’t significant differences among them. The point is that any of them would be a vastly better President than Obama.
Paul should spend less time reminding voters that as a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum supported earmarks and the bridge to nowhere, and more time reminding them that Barack Obama views government regulation and spending as the solution to all of the country’s problems.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Romney are bickering over their positions and records on immigration. Last week Perry called Romney a “magnet” for illegal immigrants. But no one can doubt that either candidate would be better on immigration than Obama, who supports full-scale amnesty for most of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.
Romney is being labeled a flip-flopper on abortion. But while his stance has changed over the years, Romney would be vastly superior on the protection of innocent human life than the pro-abortion Obama.
Last week news broke that social conservative leaders will meet next weekend to develop a plan to stop Romney from winning the Republican nomination.
But that is not the purpose of the meeting. As one of the meeting’s hosts, I will work toward conservative unity and an end to the Obama era. My participation in the meeting hinges on it being a positive exercise to stop no one but Barack Obama.
Unfortunately, most of the media coverage about the meeting has focused on whether and which social conservatives want to stop Romney’s nomination, and what it will mean for the campaign.
So as the Obama White House declares war on congressional Republicans and the Constitution, and while the Obama reelection team launches its campaign against the Republican presidential field, the news is filled with stories of Republicans sniping at one another.
All this comes at what might be the President’s political low point. According to Gallup, more Americans disapprove than approve of Obama’s job performance, and by a 52 percent to 40 percent margin, voters prefer “pro-growth” policies to Obama’s “pro-equality” policies. Gallup also finds that just 17 percent of the public is “satisfied with the way things are going.”
Republicans are up against what may be the most vulnerable incumbent President in a generation, a President you’d think they would be lining up to attack.
If Republicans keep ignoring Obama and destroying one another, the Obama reelection campaign will realize what must be its greatest wish for the general election: a damaged Republican nominee and a fractured and demoralized Republican Party unable to compete in what will likely be the most vicious and expensive campaign in history.