Relishing a fight
This afternoon I spoke to Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, who declared, "I'm happy today." Happy with a gargantuan budget? Why yes, he's delighted that the "Republicans did exactly the right thing [on the Continuing Resolution] in stretching to $100B" while the president and his party can now be seen to be "unwilling to cut spending." He says that for those key independent voters who only occasionally engage in politics and who "broke 60-40% against Republicans in 2008," this is a critical contrast.
He made three observations. First, he says that the advantageous position Republicans now enjoy stems from "the heroic victory" in the Senate in blocking the omnibus spending bill. Had the Senate Republicans not stood firm, they would have deprived Republicans of the opportunity to touch the budget for nearly a year. (Norquist says of the wavering and retiring Republican senators, "I had no leverage. Mitch McConnell somehow walked them back. How'd he do it? Someday I'll get up the nerve to ask him.") Instead, off the bat Republicans are seen cutting, and Obama is seen spending.
Second, in Norquist's view, sometimes a prolonged battle is better than a quick capitulation by the other side. He points to Tim Pawlenty (2012 candidate alert!). He says, "Why isn't Tim Pawlenty a star like Chris Christie? It's 'cause no one saw him do it. His budget veto [as Minnesota governor] was overruled by the state supreme court. He went to the Democrats and said he'd fight to the bitter end. They caved." Norquist said if the fight had gone on for two months, Pawlenty would "be a budget cutting star." In sum, a prolonged fight with the White House, in Norquist's eyes, works to Republicans' advantage.
And finally, he is optimistic that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's 2012 budget will be "fairly close to the closing position" on the budget. In his view, "All the pressure is on Obama to spend, and all the pressure on [the Republicans] is to cut."
We'll see if he's right, and if Obama made a fatal political miscalculation.
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