Nate Silver at the NYT's 538 blog is probably 50 IQ points brighter than I am, I being a dumb suburban mick lawyer. But I think he's wrong tonight
It isn’t surprising that the House Republicans approved Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which had been endorsed by their leadership. What was more remarkable, however, was the near-unanimity of the vote: just 4 Republicans dissented, while 2 others did not vote. (Democrats voted against the proposal 189-0).
Let me quote the great philosopher Wayne Gretzky. "The secret to my success wasn't skating to where the puck was, it was skating to where I thought the puck as going to go"
If one thinks political economics is a static field, then yes, voting for a massive restructure if Medicare so as to to bring the budget into balance is a big risk. Certaintly anyone eager to benefit from Medicare now or in the foreseeable future will be made a bit uncomfortable with the GOP with this vote. (Let's omit the bald face fact Ryan's plan grandfathers in the 55 & over crowd; the DNC will still try to scare them).
If 2012 is a "normal" election year Nate Silver is right: the GOP has taken a big policy risk for little obvious reward. ( Of course, one might argue keeping the country solvent is its own reward). The problem is I don't think 2012 will be a "normal" year. Moreover, if it is a "normal year", Obama probably wins a relatively easy reelection and the GOP House is on their own, ala 1996.
So, what are the likely environmental conditions for 2012?
* Higher energy costs
* A deficit exceeding $1 trillion
* Fewer employed Americans than when Obama took office. (especially in Florida & the Rust Belt)
This is not a scenario for the Democratic Party to suggest President Obama should be rewarded with more supporters in Congress. It is a scenario where voters will want a new path out of the wilderness.
Given that situation, is is a better gamble for the House GOP to run on what amounts to continuing the status quo, or to argue they are fighting for a materiallly different alternative that promises voters better results?
I would also posit that given that most senior citizen swing voters are blue collar whites, the President's yuppie persona gets in the way of rallying opposition to Republican proposals. Damm all those bitter clingers.
As for the swing district Republicans, the lesson of 2006 was that no matter how hard the likes of Nancy Johnson and Linc Chaffee tried to extricate themselves from Iraq, deficits & Mark Foley, the Dems pulled them back in. Why not stand together rather than lose through division.
In addition, I've extrapolated this post based on what I think are conservative assumptions as to energy prices and the job market. A "black swan" event will in all likilihood, demolish what is left of Obama's credibility with swing voters.
Sometimes the biggest gamble is to try and play it safe. We are in a time of extraordinary disaffection from government institutions and economic instability. Running a traditional incumbents platform under these circumstances is probably the worst bet of all.