Putting The Midterms On Cruise Control

by Patrick Appel

Ponnuru warns Republicans against it:

Take a look at the Huffington Post’s poll averages. Obama’s net job-approval rating is slightly up since the start of February. His rating on the economy has been improving since early December. He has been rising on foreign policy since late September. While the president is still “upside down,” as the operatives say, on all those measures, Republicans would be foolish to assume that the trend is their friend.

And even if Republicans succeed by taking the path of least resistance, they will be storing up future trouble. What if they win the Senate? In that case, Congress will have to move legislation. Republicans will have to come up with attractive conservative bills then, so that Obama will either feel it necessary to sign them or pay a political price for vetoing them. They will be in much better shape if they have campaigned on some of these ideas.

He is interested in the GOP “coming up with an agenda, selling it to the public and refining it as they go.” Douthat doubts that will happen:

I don’t think you’re likely to see real movement until after the 2016 campaign. The House Republican caucus is just too dysfunctional to unite around anything except modest budget deals and insufficient alternatives, and if they did unite around something more substantial they’re too distant from the White House ideologically to cut a deal. That’s probably still going to be the case after the midterms, and the lame duck phase of presidencies rarely produce much policy movement anyway. So for the ideas currently circulating to actually come up for votes that mean something, I think you’d need a change in the correlation of forces in Washington D.C. – and in particular, you’d need a clear leader capable of pushing them, which basically can only happen if there’s a Republican in the White House.

As for what happens to these kind of proposals if it’s Hillary Clinton in the White House instead, with a Republican House and a divided Senate? Honestly, I no idea – but I can’t say I’m optimistic.