The Presidential election is tightening. That’s only to be expected as we get closer, especially through the debate weeks. It was predicted here that Romney simply showing up and looking like a human would give him a bounce after weeks of demonizing, and he did better than that. Obama will have to find his A-Game to seal this thing.
But it is still Obama’s to lose. The “toss-up” states are nearly all ones that Romney should be ahead in already, and he will have to win almost all of them to pull this thing out. The big money is going to continue to flee his campaign and look to the more interesting races, particularly for the US House.
The race for the House is very close by the only measure we have, the Generic Congressional Ballot. That could make for something very interesting this January no matter which party manages to pull it out. In a big world of speculation this is worth thinking through.
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that current trends hold – Obama wins and the Senate remains Democrat (if a bit more narrowly so). The US House, currently 242 Republican to 193 Democrat, is likely to be closer. We can assume that based not just on the most recent Generic Congressional Ballot, which is essentially deadlocked, but from the very narrow range it has been in all year.
This poll asks people simply, “Who will you vote for in your US House race, a Democrat or Republican?” It has been a good predictor of the results in the past, and the stability in 2012 suggests that will continue.
Right after the election the last thing facing the 112th Congress is a big budget deal to balance the budget. Nearly everyone figures they will punt yet again, delaying the “sequestration” or automatic cuts of $1.2T for at least a few months. That means that will be one of the first things the new 113th Congress has to deal with.
If this new Congress is close, and it should be, is it possible that the moderates of both parties will stand up and work across the aisle no matter what their leadership says? This may seem like a fantasy, but consider their mindset. Everyone elected in a “swing district” is going through something far nastier than they have ever imagined, an orgy of attack ads fueled by money coming from all over and funneled through anonymous Super-PACs. Whoever wins the close ones will feel transformed – and probably braver than they have ever been in their lives.
More to the point, they’ll have plenty of reason to be sick of the power games and gotten an earful from their constituents as to how awful Congress is.
As if the election didn’t throw them to the wolves, they’ll arrive in Washingtoon to deal with the budget that no one has been able to deal with for four years. Get into their heads for a while and you can see how unprecedented the situation will be in anyone’s lifetime.
Will moderates work across the aisle to make amazing things happen? For one thing, they may very well have to. With the fuel to make it happen, someone is likely to show leadership and get the process started. Where it goes from there is the $1.2T question.
I’m not predicting that this next Congress will be ruled from the middle by moderates in both parties, but it is a strong possibility. If it is ever going to happen, this is the time. More to the point, the problem is unlikely to be solved any other way. The only alternative is a pretty serious disaster in the form of across the board cuts or a complete punt that will spook bond markets like nothing else could.
Given that the Senate is close already and will remain close no matter what, there is a decent chance that new leadership will arise. Obama, as an instant lame duck, will probably have to go along with anything that comes out of Congress no matter which party is in leadership. And so it is all set for a miracle that may yet rival the Constitutional Convention that gave rise to this very government in the first place.
A dream? Perhaps. But it’s hard to see any other way out. If you subscribe to this dream, or one like it, I invite you to join the 268,603 (and counting!) people who have signed the petition at FixTheDebt.org calling for the Simpson-Bowles framework to be adopted by Congress so that we can move forward. Everything we can do to put pressure on the right thing happening makes it just that much more likely.
A guy can dream, right?