The headline spoiled the column. James Pethokoukis, the chart-loving opinion-maker at the American Enterprise Institute, started with a warning: “How Republicans can win even if the economy keeps improving.”
How they can win? Had Pethokoukis lost the rights to his old pieces like “Obama Faces Worst-Case 2012 Scenario” and “If Obama Loses, It Will Be Because of This One Chart?” All of a sudden he was drawing up Republican battle plans based on contingencies, concluding that the party “just might” win if everything remains stagnant.
We’re living through the phony war of the Republican primary. Barack Obama’s buoyant poll numbers aren’t surprising anyone. The bigger worry is that Obama will get to preside over a solid economy. Republicans will re-enact the Bob Dole juggernaut of 1996. That’s not how this was supposed to work.
Is the New Republican Pessimism widespread? That’s the tricky part: There are different flavors of pessimism. In this period, a lull that happens to feature good economic news and good Obama poll numbers, there are four identifiable sorts of pessimism. All of them were present at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, the kickoff of the movement’s year. Not since 2008 had the event been so moody.
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