It’s not uncommon to hear Republicans in Washington, D.C. bemoan the quality of the Republican presidential contenders and mutter, “You can’t beat something with nothing. Obama is going to get re-elected.”
This, like a lot of common knowledge, is not only wrong but is a narrative that could only come out of the Obama White House.
I am continually surprised at the short-term memory of so many people who are supposed to be in the know. Just 20 years ago, the Democrats faced a dilemma: the Republican incumbent president was hugely popular, and their candidates to challenge him were being referred to in the media as “the seven dwarves.”
After their nominee was chosen through some rocky primaries, he went into virtual hiding due to problems that Anthony Wiener is glad he doesn’t have.
Yet, the public eventually decided that the election wasn’t about the flawed challenger — it was about an economy that was sluggish and an incumbent who they had never really warmed up to.
And so, William Jefferson Clinton became the 42nd president of the United States.
Now, in June of 2011, the best thing about the Republican presidential scrum is that there isn’t a clear frontrunner chosen by the party intelligentsia. There are possibly 10 legitimate contenders, all with advantages and disadvantages. The battle for the nomination will be highly competitive and intense with real discussions occurring about the direction of our nation.
Whoever is elected in November of 2012 is likely to face a federal debt that exceeds our nation’s gross domestic product, a systemic federal budget deficit that exceeds $1 trillion a year, foreign powers working overtime to usurp the U.S. as the world’s pre-eminent economic and military power, jobless rates that persist well over 8% with between 12 and 14 million unemployed and another 15 to 18 million underemployed, as well as continued domestic and foreign terrorist threats from radical Islam.
Whoever replaces the current occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will face crisis upon crisis, and the process of growth through the next 16 months will equip him or her to meet these challenges as America regains its footing as the greatest nation in the history of the world.
It won’t be easy, and victory over Obama is not assured, but one thing is certain, the nominee who emerges from the tough, diverse field of Republican aspirants will be strengthened and broadened by the experience, and ultimately the 2012 election will be a referendum on the Obama presidency.
If James Carville is right and “it’s the economy, stupid,” then the incumbent who owns the economy is in trouble. Obama’s campaign will be trying to sell a “new normal,” to get people to accept massive unemployment and a rising cost of living as the hope and change he delivered.
People who think the Republican candidates are doomed need to get outside the Beltway. On Monday, Obama did just that. The man who had people lining city blocks to try to get into his appearances in 2008 spent this past Monday evening in Miami at a fundraising event that cost $44 to get into. The arena was less than half full.
Now that is a candidate problem.
Rick Manning is the Communications Director of Americans for Limited Government and can be followed on twitter @rmanning957.