Thursday, December 09, 2010


Jonathan Chait, after reading Karl Rove's latest Wall Street Journal op-ed:

Karl Rove today again signals that the Republican line is going to be that President Obama has adopted the Republican Party's economic agenda:

failure would imperil $400 billion in tax cuts that would be a more effective economic boost than Mr. Obama's justifiably ridiculed stimulus.
I think he's setting the stage to give Republicans credit if the economy improves and Obama wins reelection. Still, I really wonder if that's the line Republicans are going to settle on. After all, the Bush tax cuts have been in effect all along. If it was a "more effective boost" than Obama's stimulus, then why didn't it work? Is this really what they're going with? I have to think they can do better.

Oh, Jonathan, Jonathan, Jonathan. Do you really believe that, if the economy recovers soon, swing voters and their Foxista friends at backyard barbecues are going to get on this subject and think through the entire timeline? That's not how it works, and Rove knows it. Here's how it works: "Y'know, Bill, I can't believe I'm sayin' this, but I might vote for Obama -- things seem to be looking up around here with the job situation." "Well, Don [says Bill, parroting a line of argument he heard the night before on Hannity], you know that the only reason things are better is that Obama didn't get rid of those Bush tax cuts. Hey, how are those burgers doin'?"

Simple and digestible -- who cares if it doesn't make any sense? It sounds as if it does. And, of course, it doesn't have to persuade everyone, or even be fully believed by everyone who takes it seriously -- as long as you float the idea that, for instance, Gingrich (or even Reagan) was responsible for the economic recovery in the Clinton years, you reduce the chances that Republicans will be thoroughly discredited during those years even among people inclined to give primary credit to Clinton. And then if, years later, the economy is bad in a Democratic era (as it is now), you pull this argument off the shelf and, to some in the middle (in addition to the usual folks on the right), it actually starts to sound reasonable.

The point is, Karl Rove is already thinking about what GOP messages will be two years from now -- or whenever the economy recovers. He's already laying the groundwork. I'm not sure there are any Democrats who are thinking yet about what their message is going to be next month.

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