Given that it is the last Sunday in 2012, Right Turn thought it appropriate to offer thoughts on the most distinguished pol of this year and our prediction for next year. To be frank, most pols had a year of which they should not be proud. President Obama ran a mean-spirited reelection campaign without a specific agenda; he and the country are paying for that now. Mitt Romney lost a winnable race, in part because his political operation was inferior to the Obama machine and in part because he could not connect at a visceral level with enough voters. Senate Democrats went another year without passing a budget and as of this writing haven’t put forth any plan to avoid the fiscal cliff. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) struggled mightily to forge a deal but perhaps has been too optimistic about the president’s deal-making abilities and his conference’s political maturity.
To find any pol worthy of distinction you have to go outside the Beltway. And there you will find not one but many distinguished GOP governors. Forget the childish complaints about his expressions of gratitude for the president’s help during Hurricane Sandy. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has a sky-high approval rating, no serious challenge for reelection and a record of conservative accomplishment. In Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has been balancing budgets, holding off tax hikes and keeping his approval in the 60 percent range. You can go through the list — Scott Walker of Wisconsin (who survived a recall), John Kasich of Ohio (who sent the unemployment rate downward), Rick Snyder of Michigan (who passed right-to-work legislation) and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana (who seems to be among the clearest voices in calling for a reform agenda) suggest that conservative governance is alive and well. So in a year of dreary and divisive politics, we can at least say: Well done, governors.
In the year ahead I will go out on a limb, picking someone with limited power and fewer troops than ever to, as the distinguished-pol distinction requires, punch above his weight. The president and the House have essentially turned over fiscal-cliff bargaining to him and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who has never been a very creative or brave pol. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the wily man of the Senate, may well be the one to thread the needle on a host of issues including the fiscal cliff and entitlement, immigration, and tax reform. If he can obtain agreement on even a few of these, put Senate Democrats on the hot seat and set his own allies up to gain seats in 2014, he will certainly be the most distinguished pol in D.C., which I agree is damning with faint praise these days.