Saturday’s editorial, courtesy The Chicago Tribune:
President Obama says he’s the “underdog” in 2012, and now he’s got the numbers to prove it. Only 42 percent of Americans are happy with the job he’s doing, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll; 37 percent expect he’ll be re-elected, and 46 percent say they “definitely will not” vote for him. Yet the Republicans are still casting about for a candidate who can beat him.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie crossed himself off the list on Tuesday, declaring that it’s “not my time.” It’s not clear whether he thinks it’s too soon to leave the office he won in 2009 or too late to mount an effective campaign for 2012, or both, but he’s probably right.
That didn’t stop GOP leaders and donors from pleading with him to enter the race. With the White House seemingly within reach, the current crop of Republican candidates hasn’t exactly inspired an electoral groundswell.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has also bowed out, perhaps at least in part because the poll found two-thirds of Republicans hope she’ll stay away. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, the early favorite, is now polling in the single digits, according to the Post. Texas Gov. Rick Perry stumbled in televised debates and all but self-destructed when the rest of us learned what his family hunting camp was called. Businessman Herman Cain is on his way up – mostly thanks to Perry, who’s on his way down – and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who wants to repeal Obama’s health care plan, which was modeled after the one Romney started in Massachusetts, is back on top. No wonder the fish aren’t biting.
And no wonder the GOP brass made a late pass at Christie. In less than two years as New Jersey’s governor, he’s cut state spending by more than 5 percent and pushed for lower business taxes that will save employers $2.35 billion over five years. He’s perfectly reasonable on social issues, unfazed by cheap shots about his weight and not afraid to tell his constituents to “get the hell off the beach” when there’s a hurricane coming. America could use a leader like that.
Christie isn’t ready or willing to run for president. And that leaves us, at least for now, with a badly hobbled president who still runs neck and neck with the top Republican candidate. And 13 months for someone else in the lineup to surprise us for the better, or not. This is why, in fact, we need a nice, long lead-up to presidential elections. It gives us plenty of time to sort things out.
The danger is that our leaders will spend that time battling for the White House to the exclusion of governing, that the partisan sideshow over the federal debt and deficit will continue right up until Election Day. Lots of noise, no progress on tax reform or spending reductions while we keep borrowing $4 billion each day. That’s something Americans can’t afford, and shouldn’t tolerate.