In pursuing politics in Washington, and as a former senior congressional staffer, I am the odd one out in my extended family: many, if not most, of my relatives are farmers, preachers or teachers. At family reunions, consequently, like the one I recently returned from, political questions are directed at me.
As an entrepreneur who runs a small business, no one understands and feels the plight of our current economic situation more than I do. I live and die with each client I work to retain. Each deal I am able to close allows me to keep my doors open. It is a reality that I was thrust into quickly as I launched my entrepreneurial projects after college in a post 9-11 world.
I disagree with Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) on many policy issues, but I greatly respect him as a politician and a war hero. That is what made the 2008 presidential election so interesting at first: a respected senior senator versus a fresh-faced freshman senator who eloquently spoke of change and hope. And yet, with Senator McCain’s pick of Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, he lost scores of votes – and perhaps the election – as the result of a desperate attempt to shore up his conservative credentials.
What will the campaign for control of both houses of Congress look like as we move down the home stretch? Two factors in particular are worth examining: Will there be coattails and will common sense on resource allocation lead both parties to maximize their chances in congressional races?
If you're a conservative policy wonk -- and sadly, I fall into that category -- then Paul Ryan is more than a solid vice presidential selection. He's a rock star pick, the total package: the philosophical foundations, the mastery of details, and the ability to put it into plain English, all while conveying the humanity that the mainstream media believes conservatives lack. As a candidate, Ryan is the real deal.
It's Ryan's legislative proposals, however, that make some conservatives worry. And with good reason: the federal budget didn't get where it is simply because of elected officials who lack courage. Americans themselves are conflicted. They know that programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid can't continue without change and they're uncomfortable with the tax increases needed to finance these entitlements. But they also flinch at accepting a penny less in benefits than they've been promised. Ryan's various plans to fix entitlements, Medicare in particular, make him a risky pick given Democrats' amply-demonstrated willingness to drag the 2012 presidential campaign into the gutter.
Will Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan doom their candidacy in Florida, Ohio and other senior-heavy states? It shouldn't, so long as Romney and Ryan define their positions rather than allowing themselves to be defined.
That’s why the Romney campaign needs to come out strong. They need to point out that it was President Obama, not Romney, who cut $700 billion from Medicare, not to save the program but to fund new entitlements. No Florida senior should enter the voting booth not knowing this fact. Listening to many Democratic talking heads, you’d think it was Romney who proposed the cuts.
On immigration, Mitt Romney desperately needs his party to do one thing above all else: shut up. It isn’t for no reason that President Obama is beating Mitt Romney by heavy margins according to every poll of Latino voters: Romney used harsh rhetoric pushing for SB 1070, calling it a “model for the nation,” promised to veto the DREAM Act -- a bill that would allow undocumented youth to earn legal status. Now that the brutal primaries seem a distant memory, Romney must do everything he can to appeal to Latino voters.
The only presidential level decision a candidate makesbefore they are elected president, is the choice of a running mate. How the nominee will govern, make decisions, and what character traits he values most are all indicated by that decision. Bill Clinton selected Al Gore to stress the “New Southern Democrat” image, and show youth and energy. George W. Bush selected Dick Cheney to shore up a perceived and real lack of Washington and foreign policy experience. Both were good choices that helped the campaigns and helped both men govern.
The debate arises in every presidential campaign. Will this be the election, pundits, pollsters, and prognosticators ask, when American Jews break their longtime alliance with the Democratic Party and start to embrace Republican candidates? Will Jewish voters migrate toward the right side of the aisle once and for all? With Republicans concentrating on attracting the Jewish community to their ranks, will Jewish voting behavior change?
Based on South Carolina’s bright red image, the idea that it’s a toss-up state that could go for President Obama in the fall may sound like a joke. It isn’t when one looks below the surface.
Let’s acknowledge that Republicans control both houses of the legislature, hold all the state’s constitutional offices, and all congressional seats except for House Democrat James Clyburn’s. Yet, South Carolina’s political reality below the surface differs significantly from the national perception. As recently as late April, Karl Rove listed South Carolina as one of six toss-up states on the basis of 50-state polling.
The current outpouring of information on where, how and why Bain Capital, with its investments in companies overseas, cost American jobs, actually misses the point, skews the facts for political purposes, and creates even more uncertainty in the job market.