Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Presidential race watch

My July column for Research magazine suggests some developments to look for in the presidential race: "What to Expect." Excerpt:

Elizabeth Who?
The Obama campaign is likely to forego a high-visibility association with Elizabeth Warren’s campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts. Warren’s potential to energize the liberal Democratic base initially would have been attractive to the Obama camp. However, controversy over her past identification as a Native American diminishes the upside of featuring Warren prominently for the president’s campaign.
The Romney campaign, too, might be reluctant to engage on Warren-related matters, as Massachusetts seems to rank low in the former governor’s strategy, both as a place to devote campaign efforts this year and as an area of his record on which to focus.
The Norquist Factor
Conservative activist Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, has had broad success in getting Republican politicians to sign his group’s pledge to oppose any tax hikes (including any closing of loopholes not matched by tax rate reductions). Mitt Romney signed the pledge, as did all the other GOP primary hopefuls except Jon Huntsman. Almost all Republicans in the House, and most in the Senate, have signed it.
The pledge has received some resistance recently, with small but growing numbers of GOP legislative candidates declining to sign it, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush dismissing it as a way to “outsource your principles.” Moreover, Norquist may have overreached with statements in recent months suggesting the next GOP president would not set an agenda but rather passively sign bills pushed by the Republican caucus.
Expect Romney to distance himself from Norquist to bolster his appeal to the center. Given Romney’s cautious style, this probably will not involve an overt break (or “Sister Souljah moment” as such repudiations have been known since Bill Clinton criticized a controversial activist in 1992). Rather, look for proxy criticisms of Norquist by Romney supporters; Jeb Bush’s statement may have been a trial run for this effort.

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