The Campaign Spot

Election Victory as Poisoned Chalice?

Monday I wrote a piece for NRO entitled “If He Wins,” trying to picture the political landscape after an Obama victory.

The good news for Democrats and the Left is obvious – they’ll have complete control of the government for the first time since 1994, and they should be positioned to enact large parts of their agenda.
The bad news is tougher to see, but may actually outweigh the good news. The next president and Congress are going to have massive problems staring them in the face; Obama would take office with some of the highest expectations of any recent president, and policy failures – of which several are certain – will be blamed on those in charge.
Based on this very sharp column in the London Times by Gerard Baker, there’s a strong case to be made that victory in this year’s election is a poisoned chalice; the winner will be set up for failure.

This sobering reality was startlingly underscored this week by none other than Tom Daschle, the former leader of the Senate Democrats, the national co-chairman of Mr Obama’s presidential campaign, and the likely White House chief of staff in an Obama administration. He told a Washington power breakfast that he thought the winner of the election would have a 50 per cent chance at best – at best – of winning a second term in 2012.

If McCain wins, we have divided government, gridlock, and at least two, maybe four years of each party blaming the other for inaction.
If Obama wins, the Democrats’ policy agenda gets enacted – tax hikes, drilling bans, summits with Ahmadinejad, Iraq withdrawal, etc. The problem is that if the next four years are a rough ride – and everything from the Wall Street rescue to the slow recovery of the housing markets to skyrocketing demand in world oil markets to the Iranian nuclear program make it appear that it will be – the decision to elect the former community organizer who had been in the Senate two years before declaring he wanted to be president will look catastrophically naive. Senator Hillary Clinton could very well launch a primary challenge to President Obama, and the Republicans will eagerly make the easy case, “We’ve tried their solutions. They don’t work.” A ticket consisting of two out of the four names of Palin, Jindal, Petraeus and Pawlenty will be well-positioned to play Reagan to Obama’s Carter.

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