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A Sweeping Declaration of Intent: Gingrich unveils new “21st Century Contract with America”

A Sweeping Declaration of Intent: Gingrich unveils new “21st Century Contract with America”

If ever there is going to be a moment for former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to create momentum and change the flat trajectory of his presidential run—now is the time. One day after the release of a Fox News poll, which surprisingly showed him gaining substantial ground in the race, Gingrich took to the stage at the Principal building in Des Moines to unveil his newly minted “21st Century Contract with America”.

Updated from the 1994 version, this new contract will serve as the backbone of his campaign and its acceptance or rejection will determine his fate one way or the other.

In the world of presidential politics such fate is largely decided by three things—the style, the substance, and the politics. Here is a brief analysis of all three.

The Style

By any objective measure this event was a success for the former speaker. It displayed a candidate and a campaign that, at a minimum, is hitting its stride and indeed may be ready to become a major player in the race going forward.

Standing on a small stage at the bottom of a room that can be best described as a large movie theatre, Newt showcased many of the positive characteristics that have marked his long political career. He spoke for an hour without a teleprompter or notes and smoothly communicated his message to the audience while appearing very comfortable in his own skin.

The setting was remarkably similar to a college lecture hall and his experience as a professor no doubt factored into his comfort level. Much like his strong debate performances of late, this setting played to his strengths and the result was a candidate able to speak to a variety of issues in a succinct, relaxed, and presidential fashion.

The Substance

After being presented the outline for his new “contract”, one thing is certainly clear—this is a campaign that will not lack grandeur.

Quickly letting the audience know how high he thinks the stakes are, he explained the reasoning behind the large scale of his vision by saying “countries can die without adequate leadership”.

By and large the 21st Century Contract with America is a sweeping document of declared intent. In most cases the solutions he outlines are intentionally vague as his plan is to slowly codify specifics as the campaign progresses. Following a “national conversion”, the aim is to have the contract fully fleshed out by September 27th of next year.

His solutions are largely modern day Conservative Republican fare (not a bad thing), whose main thrusts are to inject simplicity and choice into the dealings that we as citizens have with government. Any American serious about vetting the Republican candidates needs to read through the document on their own (availiable here), but here is an overview on a few major issues.

His first order of business would be to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a free market set of solutions to bring the cost of insurance down. The overall structure of our health care system would basically remain in place while insurance policies would be made portable, able to be purchased across state lines, and able to be optionally blended with personal health savings accounts (even in Medicare and Medicaid). These things along with tort reform and digitalizing medical records would attempt to radically decrease premiums without the use of mandates.

He would work to strengthen Social Security while keeping it at the Federal level and push for a voluntary option for young people to put a portion of their contributions into a Social Security savings account. The owner of this account could then choose to take this money and retire (or not retire) at any age they wished.

Perhaps the most interesting areas of this document come under the headings of taxes and immigration.

His business tax proposals are to reduce the corporate tax to 12.5%, abolish all capital gains and estate taxes, and allow 100% write offs in one year for all new equipment purchases. Personal income taxes would be handled by offering a choice to each citizen to either pay under the current system or file with a newly offered one page option. The one page would consist of taking your income, subtracting a standard deduction, taking a deduction for charitable giving and home ownership (if applicable), and multiplying that number by a single set percentage (which is left unspecified).

The headline on his immigration initiative is that there would be a deadline date for securing the border by January 1st, 2014 (“secure” is left undefined). Though it is not stated the inclusion of a firm date strongly suggests that following “securing” the border would be some form of amnesty. While a few years ago this idea would have been a non-starter for a large block of Republicans, currently the reality seems to have set in that this type of a trade-off is the only way to deal with this problem and finally move forward.

The Politics

Skeptics of the recent Gingrich campaign surge could doubt that he has the fiery sizzle to overcome his slow start and existing baggage— and be justified.  Meanwhile critics of his 21st Century Contract with America could attack the plan for being a little light on specifics (especially since Newt is not prone to lack of minutia)—and attack they may.  That being said, going forward this campaign has many more advantages to exploit than disadvantages to fear.

Here are six factors that point to his candidacy not only continuing to build on its current momentum, but that also have the potential to thrust him into the top three in a short amount of time.

#1) His mastery of the debate format, the reason that he has recently gained ground, will be an ever-growing advantage moving forward.  As the number of candidates on stage dwindles he will be allotted more and more time and will be more easily compared to the less capable candidates.

#2) Republicans are likely to recognize that a supremely informed, smooth, and skilled debater will neutralize Obama’s biggest advantage (smooth flowery rhetoric).

#3) Now that he has a specific doctrine to anchor his campaign the focus will shift there and drift away from the personal issues that previously have been sucking up oxygen and damaging his campaign.

#4) A close examination of his policy proposals reveals that he has a large number of Tea Party friendly stances and would garner their support, while not being too linked to them to hurt him in a general election.  In 2012 Republican politics this is what you call “the sweet spot”.

#5) The concepts of personal choice, competition, deadlines, fresh ideas, and lower taxes that are found throughout his platform will all appeal to true political independents—namely those that voted for Obama last time thinking that’s what they would be getting.

#6)  As the race gets closer and more real, Republicans have a track record of deciding on the grounds of experience and perceived wherewithal to win…McCain anyone?  Consider this— it’s easy to make the argument that he is as capable, if not more so, than Mitt Romney, while it’s hard to argue that he is not more Conservative.

The bottom line politically is that Newt stacks up well to the rest of the field in many categories while largely lapping them in depth and substance.  As the race wears on he, oddly enough, finds himself with many advantages to gain from and plenty of time to do it…and he certainly doesn’t have to worry about peaking too soon!

In terms of the release of the new contract and the impact it will have on his campaign the analysis is fairly simple.  The concept of a contract with the American people was a great idea and a brilliant political vehicle in 1994…and it still is in 2011.


Photo Courtesy of

A Sweeping Declaration of Intent: Gingrich unveils new “21st Century Contract with America”

Observations on the August 11th Iowa GOP/Fox News Presidential Debate

Courtesy of State Central Committee member Gopal Krishna, my wife and I had great 8th row seats for the Iowa GOP/Fox News Presidential Debate.
The debate included: Speaker Gingrich; Governors: Huntsman, Pawlenty and Romney; Senator Santorum, Representatives Bachmann and Paul; and businessman Herman Cain.

I’m writing this post on Sunday morning, August 14th.  I intended to write it before the Straw Poll, but I didn’t get it done.  My observations will include some thoughts about the Straw Poll, although I was not able to attend it in person.  I don’t believe in titling people as “winners” or “losers” so I will define my analysis in terms of my personal expectations.

Exceeded Expectations: 

Governor Romney – Mitt Romney spoke powerfully and articulately on every opportunity.  I was particularly impressed with his handling of the “gotcha” question about the Bain Capital investments in businesses that later failed and lost jobs.  His answers on Romneycare are consistent with what can be expected of a Republican governor in a liberal state.  I believe the 10th Amendment has meaning, so I respect his answer.   He did not compete in the Straw Poll.

Senator Santorum – Rick Santorum sprinted from anonymity to relevance with his precise, powerful responses on his legislative achievements related to welfare reform and middle east foreign policy.  For me, his clash with Ron Paul made me consider again the Congressman’s views on foreign policy.  His debate performance helped him to 4th place in the Straw Poll.

Met Expectations:

Speaker Gingrich – Newt Gingrich had a great start when he criticized Chris Wallace for asking “gotcha” questions. The crowd was 100% with him.  Unfortunately, he finished weakly with an oddly placed plea for citizens to contact their representatives now because we can’t wait until 2012’s election for leadership.

Representative Bachmann – Michele Bachmann had an overall good night.  I thought she had the most difficult of the “gotcha” questions when she was asked if she would be submissive to her husband as President.  She showed great control over her emotions.  She came across as thoughtful and confident in her responses.  I thought she relied too much on lines from her scripted stump speech.  She is the Iowa leader coming into the debate and I thought she held her own, as confirmed by her 1st place showing in the Straw Poll.

Failed to Meet Expectations:

Representative Paul – Ron Paul should be in my wheelhouse.  I have strong Libertarian leanings in my political ideology.  I thought he made a mistake engaging in the cat fight with Senator Santorum.  He came across as a little shrill in his efforts to defend Iran and criticize past U.S. foreign policy.   I imagine President Obama was nodding in agreement.  Most of all, I don’t understand why he does not ask his ardent supporters to show respect and refrain from aggravating the many people who attended the debate to hear candidates, not activists.  Of course, he nearly won the Staw Poll, but I’m skeptical that his national polling numbers will improve based on the debate.

Herman Cain – Herman Cain should also be in my wheelhouse.  I believe strongly in capitalism as the engine of prosperity for America and the world.  Herman’s strength is his ability to provide short understandable answers to complex questions.  He has not moved quickly enough from process to solutions. I thought he performed at about the same level as the South Carolina debate, but that is not good enough at this point.

Governor Pawlenty – Tim Pawlenty looked petty in the way he engaged Representative Bachmann.  I realize that some of this was driven by the questions, but he would have been well served to remember Reagan’s 11th Commandment.   Given the time and effort he has put into his Iowa effort, his % of the vote in the Straw Poll confirms that he did not meet expectations in this debate. He had the organization, but he did not have the committed voters like Bachmann and Paul.   I understand now why McCain did not pick him as his VP in 2008.

Editorial Note: My comments were finished before Governor Pawlenty dropped out.

Governor Huntsman – Jon Huntsman is a Republican.  I don’t understand why Dick Morris keeps saying he should run in the Democrat Party.   I appreciate his willingness to stick with positions that he knows are unpopular with a meaningful segment of the Republican base.  That takes character and integrity.  I think he has those qualities. I thought his demeanor lacked sparkle and emotion.  His responses were not crisp.  He has not spent much time in Iowa so the Staw Poll doesn’t mean much for his candidacy.

In closing, I would like to emphasize that I would be willing to work hard and support any of these candidates, Rick Perry or Sarah Palin should they win the Republican nomination for President.  Each of them would be a far better President than Barack Obama, who has turned out to be the most partisan, divisive President of my lifetime.



Should elected party officials endorse candidates before the primary?

Should elected party officials endorse candidates before the primary?

Earlier this week, I received a press release with the following redacted endorsement:
xxx, Iowa– xxx County Republican chairman xxx today endorsed xxx for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

This notification stirred me to think about the question “Should elected party officials endorse candidates before the primary?”. As Chairman of the Polk County Republican Party for the period 2009-2010, I made a personal decision that I would not endorse primary candidates for local or statewide offices, but my tenure did not cover a presidential cycle. Should the rules be different for Iowa’s “1st in the Nation” presidential caucus?

I don’t believe there is a clear answer to this question. The best I can do is to share some anecdotal experiences from my time as Chairman that may have relevance to the discussion.

Activist Issues – On several occasions, I received complaints from political activists that we (Polk County leaders) were favoring a candidate. Frequently these complaints were associated with our website coverage and emails related to campaign events held by or on behalf of one of the candidates. Usually the complaint was “Why did you communicate candidate x’s event but you failed to communicate candidate y’s event?”. Almost 100% of the time, our failure to communicate was the result of the campaign failing to inform us of their event. Never the less, some people remained convinced that we had undercut their candidate because we secretly favored another one.

Candidate Issues – On a few occasions, we received complaints from candidates. Usually this was associated with “setting the bar too high” for access or visibility at an event. We paid our bills by conducting these events, so we had to consider every possible revenue source. We thought we set the access fee appropriately. Some candidates remained convinced that we had intentionally set rules to favor only candidates with strong financial support.

Policy/Platform Issues – I feel very strongly that there is only one role for a Chairman when it comes to platform issues. His or her role is to run a platform development process that is broadly based. The process should include meaningful representation from the many precinct caucuses in the county. The platform discussions should be led by a strong facilitator (not the Chairman) who respects the rights of every representative to participate subject to the agreed rules of order. The Chairman should never try to force his or her personal policy views into the process. If a Chairman openly prefers one candidate, is that not clearly an endorsement for that candidates policy views? As an example, many Polk County Central Committee members knew that I supported John McCain in 2008 (before I was Chairman). I had to work hard to convince some members that my effort to broaden the platform committee was not a Trojan horse to place more moderates into the process. The reality is that my only intent was to include more of the elected platform representatives.

It is clear to me that in a local or statewide primary election, a Chairman cannot endorse a candidate without seriously aggravating the suspicions of activists and candidates? Presidential politics in Iowa tend to be fairly emotional. In Iowa we have many of our finest activists joining the fight on behalf of their preferred candidate. By endorsing a candidate, a Chairman will almost certainly alienate some people and lose their support for county activities in the general election.  I would therefore recommend that a County Chairman, or any other elected party official, refrain from making such endorsements.

A Sweeping Declaration of Intent: Gingrich unveils new “21st Century Contract with America”

New Hampshire Debate Recap: Bachmann Belongs, Santorum Shines, and Newt Successfully Re-Boots

Seven Republican Presidential contenders took the stage in New Hampshire Monday night in attempts to sway the primary electorate in their favor. Though the performances of all were respectable, their level of success in making their cases was varied. The following is a recap of what went down, who went up, who maintained, and what surely raised some eyebrows.

The Format and The Field

In general CNN did a nice job making the debate informative and substantive. What did not work was attempting to do away with the traditional bell or buzzer to limit each candidates response time and giving them only 30 seconds to answer the questions. Thirty seconds is simply not enough time for anyone to explain their position on complex issues, especially when the questions are multi-faceted. The result of this was moderator John King, who I very much respect, constantly trying to interrupt the participant’s responses, some of these interruptions were justified, most were not, and all were distracting.

In terms of the candidates, it was stunning both how cordial they were to each other and how little difference existed between them on the vast majority of their positions. Anyone who closely followed the 2008 primary debates could instantly tell that the Republican Party has shifted further to the right than it was four years ago. To Conservatives this is not only a positive on substance, but is also comforting as it guarantees that the 2012 election will be a clear ideological choice for the rest of the Country. This is something that you could not necessarily say about McCain vs. Obama in 2008 as, though it is hard to believe now, Obama actually ran as a “unifying” moderate Democrat (no chance he gets away with that this time!).

Eyebrow Raisers

Here is a snap-shot of both the good and bad headlines that were made and the things said that could have a lasting impact on the race.

1) Though provoked, Tim Pawlenty inexplicably chose not to attack Romney on health care and Rick Santorum took a pass at wounding Romney on his abortion flip-flop.
2) Michelle Bachmann replaced answering the first question asked of her with the unexpected announcement that she is officially running.
3) Bachmann played into the potential “extremist” label by implying that she believes a pregnant woman whose life is in danger, has been impregnated by a family member, or is the victim of rape should be legally required to give birth to the child. I realize that many hard-line Republicans may agree with this and that often these exceptions can be a ruse to justify an abortion, but the point is that, by and large, this will be controversial to the general electorate.
4) Even after months of running for president Herman Cain still refuses to provide any level of specificity regarding foreign policy, even after being widely criticized for his failure to do so in the first debate.
5) Newt Gingrich “re-back tracked” on his statement that Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform proposal is “right wing engineering”. After saying this initially, then the following day saying his comments were “unfortunate”, last night he dug in and defended his original words (though he gave a fairly effective, all be it nuanced, explanation).
6) Ron Paul, in responding to what he would do regarding our current troop deployment, gave probably the best answer of the night by saying “I wouldn’t wait for my General’s; I’m the Commander In Chief. I make the decisions, I tell the Generals what to do, and I’d bring them home as quickly as possible.” This was great in that it shattered the multi-administration practice of using the Generals and there recommendations as an “excuse” to avoiding making the hard decision of ending a war. As soon as a General says, “I think we should lose this war now and leave immediately” I will characterize this practice differently.
7) Paul emphatically said that as president he would not authorize drone attacks on Al Qaeda in Yemen or in Pakistan (and presumably anywhere else).
8) Paul also said that hospitals should not be required to give illegal aliens (in this example a 5 year old child) emergency room medical care. Now even the most passionate Ron Paul supporters have to realize that, regardless of what merit one might think it has in theory, you simply can’t say something like this in presidential politics and expect to win anything.

The Winners, The Maintainers, and The Losers

This debate saw three candidates gain a great deal; two do enough to keep their position in the field unchanged; and two who likely saw the status they have worked hard to build up diminished. The following categorizations are all based on individual expectations coming in and what they needed to do to boost their place in the pack.

The Winners

Michelle Bachmann—It’s hard to imagine her first appearance in the race, and on the National stage, going much better than it did. It was not only obvious that she belonged in the race, but that she is very near the top tier already. She confidently displayed her firm grasp on the issues, effectively alluded to her large and ongoing role in the fights on Capitol Hill, and emoted aggressiveness in going after Obama—something that Republicans are starving for. She said she would not rest until Obamacare is repealed and would spur job creation by bringing down tax rates substantially and reforming/repealing the EPA. You know it was a good night for her when the only indecisiveness she showed was on the question of who she preferred between Elvis and Johnny Cash, her answer…both.

Newt Gingrich—Anyone who thought Newt was going away anytime soon must now consider that opinion a gross overreaction. Of all the candidates on the stage it was clear he was the most steeped in history, policy, and that he was the most natural debater. The immediate post-debate reaction from the CNN crew tried to make his statement that he would demand anyone in his cabinet be committed to the country and the Constitution akin to McCarthy-ism. That is complete rubbish. He called the Obama administration a “destructive force”, said he would repeal the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill as well as defund the National Labor Relations Board, and would quickly work to repeal Obamacare. Speaking of Obamacare, he was the only candidate to acknowledge the importance of a Senate majority in achieving repeal. He also said that he would re-assess our whole involvement in the Middle East and would bring our troops home as soon as possible (pursuant to their safety).

Rick Santorum—Anyone who sleeps on this guy’s chances is making a huge mistake. His two debate performances have been impressive and even if he is not able to claim victory, he has VP shortlist written all over him. Though you are not hearing a lot of buzz about him he actually gave the evenings most decisive and specific answers, and once again proved that this stage is not too big for him. He fully embraced both Paul Ryan and the Tea Party, said he would cut the capital gains tax rate in half (after 5 years of 0% capital gains), and had a well thought out and specific plan to phase out ethanol. He very successfully made the case that Obama would begin cutting Medicare in 2014, while saying his approach would be to turn the whole system into something very similar to Medicare Plan-D. Overall he delivers clean, forceful sentences and already has a large natural base with the religious right (which either Romney or Huntsman would covet in a running mate should they win the nomination).

The Maintainers

Mitt Romney—Coming in as the perceived front-runner, he likely did enough to maintain this position. He made no mistakes while intentionally breaking no new policy ground. On all major issues he spoke in the most fundamental terms of all the candidates, likely foreshadowing a strategy of staying broad-viewed and specific free in the races early stage. The biggest pluses for him on this night were that he gave the most coherent and convincing defense of Romneycare to date, and was not subjected to repeated attacks from the rest of the field, as was expected.

Ron Paul—Paul gave his standard strong performance, which unfortunately also included his usual hammering on a handful of his positions that make him an unrealistic general election candidate. He is so right about nearly everything in the domestic realm, but no Republican (or Democrat) will ever win the presidency by refusing to pro-actively attack Al-Qaeda with drones. The only way this position would be feasible is if you took the drones off the table while simultaneously offering an alternative strategy to protect us from the threat of terrorism. There is no doubt that the American people would support ending all our current engagements in the Middle East, but just implying that this alone would end the risk of being attacked is never going to fly. It continued to be obvious just how much the Republican Party has gravitated his way over the last four years by how many times the other candidates referenced both his view points and his answers (something that never happened in the 2008 primary debates).
Not only did many of the candidates say, as Paul has forever, that it is time to quickly end all three wars, but I have never heard “states’ rights” mentioned so many times in a debate before…and for that we thank you Ron. If the election only concerned domestic affairs I think it would be shocking how well he would do.

The Losers

Tim Pawlenty – For a candidate that so many expect to break through any day now—the wait continues. Though his performance was solid he really needed to do more, and he had the chances to. Not only did he inexplicably fail to challenge Romney over health care, he also failed to capitalize on being the only candidate so far to have released a specific economic growth plan, which he did last week. Talking his plan up should have been the first thing on his agenda (and the second…and the third). He absolutely could have drawn the distinction between himself and the rest of the field that he desperately needs by saying “I am the only candidate on this stage that has a concrete plan to turn the economy around, the rest of these people are only offering words”. That being said, he did give strong answers on fair trade, right to work, and was the only one to mention the importance of appointing Conservative justices to the courts (which he had a good record of doing in Minnesota).

Herman Cain—While he was able to shine with the lower-tier candidates in the first debate, Cain struggled to stand out amongst the heavier hitters. What hurts him the most is that while others are able to point to decisions they have made, votes they have taken, and legislation that they have championed, he is not able to do the same. Not being able to cast himself in those roles creates a perception, probably an unfair one, that he is removed from the fight. He could counter this by bringing to the debate specific, innovative, and well thought out solutions, but as of yet these are in short supply. Driving this point home was the fact that, despite being the former CEO of a restaurant chain, he did not even have a specific opinion on the FDA—saying in response to a question that “maybe” they need to be reformed or stream-lined. There is a lot to like about him, and he did have some good moments, but how he thinks, after months of running for president, that he can refuse to give specific foreign policy opinions is beyond me. If anyone has the personality to make some populist noise it is him, but more than any other candidate he needs to be offering unique, brilliant, and very specific proposals to stand out. If he does this he will elevate his status, until then he will remain buried in the pack.

Photo courtesy of TEApublican.

A Sweeping Declaration of Intent: Gingrich unveils new “21st Century Contract with America”

American Gladiators II: A Painful Look Back…A Bright Future Ahead

The Following piece is the 2nd installment of an ongoing series here at The Conservative Reader. “American Gladiators” is a recurring feature focusing on the defining political issue of our generation: the crucial battle over Federal spending and the debt and deficit it creates.

A favorite saying of both political parties these days is that “elections have consequences”—2010 proved that so do primaries. For Republicans no past event has had a bigger impact on the eventual major players and the shape of the fiscal debate’s battlefield than the primaries preceding the 2010 mid-term elections.

Though history now, you may recall at that time an internal debate was raging amongst Republicans. Many influential Conservative thinkers, including Charles Krauthammer, joined a large number of high ranking members of the Republican establishment in warning against selecting “unconventional”, mostly Tea Party backed, candidates to compete against Democrats in liberal leaning districts.

Though admittedly unappealing, this camp made the case that in selected states it would be wiser to support more moderate Republicans who had a greater chance of winning in traditional Democratic strong holds. They particularly took issue with Christine O’ Donnell in Delaware, Linda McMahon in Connecticut, and Sharon Angle in Nevada, all of whom went on to win their primaries but lose in the general election.

While the stand was principled, harnessing a populist movement is difficult, and there is no guarantee a more main stream Republican would have won, it is fair to at least consider this rejection of political pragmatism as an over reach by the Tea Party… and one that had painful consequences.

Working without anesthesia, Dr. Hindsight unmercifully reopens the wounds when one considers how much better Republicans would be positioned with just four more Senate seats. Having a majority in this body to go along with the one already had in the House would have provided Republicans a massive strategic advantage. Specifically, it would have allowed them to not only pass unified bills on spending cuts and the budget, but to bypass the Senate buffer the President currently enjoys and send the bills directly to his desk. Removing this Senate buffer would have enabled Republicans to repeatedly, and at will, draw him out on targeted issues. Imagine a scenario in which every week he was forced to either agree and sign a bill, or veto it and go on record resisting specific cuts.

Any Democratic strategist would tell you that either of these actions would be vastly damaging to his re-election bid. Should he sign, his base would trample themselves in disgusted exodus, while a veto would leave him constantly defending unpopular expenditures, and require him to personally counter-offer with specific proposals (not his strong suit). Such extended exposure on vulnerable ground would have in essence reworded the old political axiom “sunlight is the best disinfectant” into “sunlight is the best infectant”.

In spite of these lost opportunities, snapping out of the past and returning to the present finds Republicans still in very good shape. Though it includes a few head scratchers, the polling data on long term budget issues strongly favors the GOP position. The best news is provided by the findings on the debate’s two most fundamental questions: Are budget deficits and the National debt widely perceived as problems? And, do people feel that success from Republican plans is fundamentally possible?

As to the first, a CBS News Poll (March 18-21,2011-m.o.e=+-3) found that 68% of respondents felt that the budget deficit was a “serious problem”, while another 26% termed it “somewhat serious”. Only 5% thought it was “not too serious”.

While beyond promising, perhaps the better news comes from a Bloomberg National Poll (March 4-7, 2011-m.o.e=+-3.1) which asked “Do you think it is, or is not possible to bring down the deficit substantially without raising taxes?” The results reveal a clear path to victory. 61% felt that it is possible, while only 37% thought it was not. This is critical because not raising taxes is both the exact approach taken by all the Republican plans, as well as one of the main criticisms leveled against them by opponents.

While it is true historically that the particulars of a proposal are less popular than its concept, starting with numbers this high leaves room for weathering the inevitable loss of points forthcoming now that specifics of the plans have been revealed. If the caustic attacks on the plans as being “extreme” are able to be zeroed out by the number of converted skeptics, there likely would still be ample room to compromise with Democrats on some points, which for passage in 2012 is an absolute must.

While looking back at what could have been is painful, the opportunity to win is still very much within reach. Given that the Tea Party is solely responsible for the fact that we are even having this debate, it is hard to criticize it. That being said, it is wise to note the times that the movement’s fierce purism creates a double-edged sword.

We will never know if different Republican primary candidates would have resulted in a Senate majority, but we do know that winning on an issue this big will require both strategy and some compromise. Going forward it will be fascinating to see to what extent the Tea Party tolerates each to be in play, if at all.

Sometimes the most nuanced political analysis is worthless and the whole issue comes down to a simple question. This appears to be just such an issue and the question that victory hinges on is: “Do the American people believe that remaining on the current path will end in a financial disaster?”

For the reasons given above, if I was looking at this and was a gambling man—that faint sound you hear would be my chips…smoothly sliding across felt.

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