By Bob Cusack - 05/22/11 11:08 PM EDT
Gang members Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.): Conrad and Warner get A’s for effort and for tirelessly pushing their party to face the mounting debt. But the fact is, it has been an especially terrible week for Conrad, who saw six months of working to unite the Gang of Six, and separate attempts to move a Democratic budget resolution also had to be delayed. “He has got to be tearing his hair out,” one friend said. If the remaining Gang of Five can produce something and bolster the Biden talks with it, some damage could be repaired. Warner, like Conrad, is a key centrist who tried to hold the Gang together; in that primary mission both have appeared to fall short.
Asked May 1 on “Fox News Sunday” about the Gang of Six plan, Conrad said, “If we don’t [release a plan soon], we’re simply not going to be relevant, because this debate marches on,” he said. It’s three weeks later, and Conrad now faces a challenge to remain relevant on this high-profile issue.
Gang members Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.): These senators are trying to keep the talks going, but with Coburn gone they are facing the brunt of conservative ire. Tripp Baird of Heritage Action said Crapo has been damaged the most and will be hurt more by sticking with the remaining group. Crapo has said there cannot be a Gang of Five deal and that Coburn has to be lured back for the talks to produce something.
GOP 2012 presidential candidates: The failure of the Gang of Six, by ensuring a grand solution to the deficit is not achieved before 2012, also ensures the elections next year will be about the Ryan budget’s cuts to Medicare and Obama’s inability to tame the debt. Bob Bixby of The Concord Coalition pointed out that Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and others will now face many questions about the Ryan plan, something popular in the primaries but possibly poisonous in the general election. Last week, Newt Gingrich stumbled badly when trying to explain his position on the Ryan plan.