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So, with the GOP in Tampa ducking a big wind storm and creating one of their own, I guess it has become time to ponder what will happen in November.  Does the president get to keep his job?  Or does the new guy come along and knock him out?

First of all, I have been following politics fairly closely throughout my life, though not as much during these last few years, and I have found that what seems obvious in hindsight is rarely that obvious ahead of time.  By December, whatever has happened will have begun to be seen as inevitable.  For now, the future is still fuzzy.  Always in motion is the future.

A few months ago, my thinking was that Obama would manage to squeeze back in.  He still might.  My reasons for thinking this were:

  • The press was and ever will be on his side – and they don’t even try to hide it.
  • Romney is – once again for the Republicans – fairly lackluster.
  • The blame for the current economy continually gets pointed at the government in general – for doing too little!  Only about a third of the population – no points for guessing which third – blame the continued bad economy on administration policies.
  • Romney was going to focus his campaign on competence.

Naturally, this could still happen.  Also, there is no telling what sort of event could throw out all previous assumptions: war in the Middle East, an assassination, a last-minute replacement of a VP candidate.

Still, my thinking now is that Romney will manage to squeak in and I guess my reason for thinking this is the Ryan nomination.  No, I don’t think Ryan will have much authority in a Romney administration nor do I think it signals any great change in Romney’s likely governance.  But I don’t think Romney would have made this choice unless his plan was to make government spending the centerpiece of his campaign.

If Romney keeps the campaign focused tightly on the economy and demonstrates how gargantuan deficit spending keeps the economy in chains, then he will win this election.  He needs a laser-like focus: “It is the spending, stupid!”

I doubt Romney actually believes this – or he doesn’t care – but if he thinks this strategy will win him office, he will use it.  I think the choice of Ryan signals that this is exactly what he intends to do.  If, on the other hand, the Ryan appointment was only meant to “fire up” the conservative base and Romney intends to campaign on his experience and competence, then it is just 1996 all over again and he will probably lose to the Glamorous in Chief.

But I do feel pretty safe predicting that, should Romney win and should the Republicans win both houses of Congress with comfortable margins, very little will change on the spending front.  Obama-care will receive only a token haircut, government will spend more in 2013 than it did in 2012, and the spending orgy will continue in a slightly different direction, while Paul Ryan stares out the windows at Observatory Circle and tries to figure out how to distance himself from administration policy.

Indeed, it is hard to imagine the circumstances that would ever convince official Washington to even slow the increase in spending.  The Depression didn’t, Stagflation didn’t, the current morass hasn’t.  What will, short of The Million Pitchfork March?  And how would you keep all those pitchforks aimed in the right direction long enough?

Of course, my most fervent hope would be for a Libertarian victory.  Johnson would do his level best to curtail the spending, I have no doubt.  He certainly has the best resume of all Libertarian candidates.  But I have always maintained that, for the LP to win the presidency, there would have to be such a sea-change of thought in the electorate that whoever won the election would find himself forced to cut spending and return to some prior level of personal freedom.  But I will caveat that statement a little by recognizing that a sufficiently charismatic candidate might himself cause just such a sea-change.

Is Johnson such a candidate?  No sign of it so far, but I remain hopeful.  Meanwhile, whether the next president is named Obama, Romney, or Johnson, life will go on, the beatings will continue, and wealth will be created.  All they can do is steal what we make, you see, and not all of it.  They can’t really stop us.


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