1. Ramesh Ponnuru makes a realistic and thoughtful case for Romney. I would add that I don’t for a second trust Romney’s instincts on judicial appointments. If he becomes President, Romney will already have plenty of fights with the left-of-center related to the related issues of the budget and health care. It will be tempting to avoid another fight on judges by picking a Supreme Court Justice that is either a total blank slate or (less likely) even a “compromise” candidate that is favored by liberals. The (possibly unjust) experience of Harriet Miers indicates this would be a major political error as it would mean taking fire from the right while not actually getting any support from the center. But I suspect the prospect of avoiding a court fight might lead the Romney team to try to find a too-cute way out. The most likely way to stop such a mistake would be for a large group of conservative Senators to let Romney know that their opposition to such an appointment would be both faster and sharper than their opposition to Miers. Quiet clarity at the beginning might save some hard feeling and political capital later on. It should of course be noted that the reelection of Obama guarantees the worst case scenario for judicial appointments so it isn’t like there is a tough choice on this issue.
2. Moving on to James Ceaser’s post on what might come from the election: An important consideration in how the public views the outcome of the election will be the course of the economy during the next four years. One can easily imagine a combination of an economic downturn and whatever (if any) steps are undertaken to address the looming debt crisis severely wounding the party that wins the presidency (however narrowly) and discrediting its approach to policy for a while (and giving the other party a strong hand to implement its favored policy after 2016.) I don’t care how much Obama wins by, he is going to take a hard line toward high earner tax increases even if it means going over the “fiscal cliff.” If you look at his budgets, you can read between the lines that he knows that middle-class tax increases are needed to make his spending projections even come close to working and the “fiscal cliff” fight gives him a chance to put some of the blame on the Republicans for middle-class tax increases and defense cuts he probably wants anyway. He could then argue for restoring some of the middle-class tax cuts with offsetting high earner tax increases. I’m not sure that the Republicans would actually get the blame, but it probably looks worth the risk for Obama. He of course also get to consolidate Obamacare for four more years and maybe even get to appoint several more Supreme Court Justices giving liberals a solid (and potentially aggressive) majority.
Romney’s path as president looks rough too. Even if the Republicans get a one or two seat majority in the Senate, it is doubtful that Romney would get majority support for a Ryan-style budget adjustment. That means that the most realistic chance for dealing with the debt crisis would be a deal with red state Senate Democrats that included spending cuts, premium support Medicare, block granting some of Medicaid to the states, raising the Social Security retirement age and reducing Social Security benefits for future high earners in exchange for higher tax revenues (hopefully mostly by reducing high earner deductions.) This kind of deal would produce howls from the left and maybe even cries of betrayal from some portions of the right (this place – unlike Supreme Court Justices – would be the spot for conservatives to give Romney some space to maneuver.) I’m not sure you could get enough Senate Democrats to go along. If I were thinking cynically, I don’t know why I would go along with a program of unpopular spending cuts proposed by the other party in exchange for tax increases that would hit a vocal element of the public.
That’s how I know (suspect really) we’re out of luck fool.