If you were a Republican Congressman right now…what would you be thinking? That’s what Silver attempts to deconstruct in a recent post.
And while Nate explains the political thought process in detail, I think one thing’s for certain…Obama better be ready for a fight.
But let’s say that the economy still sucks in 2010 — which, frankly, is a pretty good bet. That’s going to work much, much better for you if you’ve voted against the stimulus. Not only can you pin the blame on the donkeys, but you can campaign on tax cutting and fiscal responsibility — the stimulus will “prove”, once and for all, the wisdom of conservative economic principles. And then think about this: the Democrats are going to be trying to spend $800 billion in taxpayer dollars as quickly as they can possibly get away with it. Somewhere along the way, they’re going to wind up funding a Woodstock Museum or a Bridge to Nowhere. Somewhere along the way, an enterprising contractor is going to embezzle a bunch of stimulus money, or cook up some kind of pay-to-play scheme. Maybe if you’re really lucky, this will happen in your Distrct. Better to keep the whole thing at arm’s-length and make sure that Democrats get the blame for that.
So it seems to me that your risks and rewards are pretty asymmetrical. The public loves Obama, whereas that (R) beside your name is still causing you problems, especially when every Newt and Bobby and Sarah out there is perfectly happy to throw you under the bus. Fact is, you’re not going to get the benefit of the doubt. If the stimulus package is seen as a success, you aren’t going to get an ounce of credit for it. But if it’s seen as a failure, you’d better make damned sure that you’ve distanced yourself from it.
I can almost guarantee you that this is what will came to fruition since this is pretty much what happened with the TARP bill. It’s much easier to be the party of “no” right now then the party of compromise.
However, Republicans are playing a very dangerous game because Obama is well positioned to be the pragmatic leader he claimed he was. So being the opposition to that new tone will become increasingly difficult and the surest way to make Obama a two termer is to simply fight him without viable economic alternatives.