Take action, punt or do nothing. Those are the options President Obama has as we head into the final days and hours before we reach the “fiscal cliff.” The latest polls suggest that while the president has solid job-approval numbers at 57 percent, his handling of the economy, the cliff and the deficit are all below 50. The president's numbers are not strong, and he doesn't have any momentum in Washington, where a deal must be crafted if we are going to avoid a major economic setback.
While there aren't any polls to confirm it, there is little to suggest that the president has much power over Democrats in Congress. The Senate is independent by nature, and Obama doesn't have a core group of loyalists who are committed to him, no matter what. The president's style and management skills don't lend themselves to getting other leaders to follow him or yield to his will. Making matters worse is that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is best when anger is all that is needed. He is less effective when legislating needs to be done.
In sum, the president is surprisingly weak in Washington despite his reelection. Combine this with what I've said is the president's bias or indifference to economic growth and avoiding the cliff, and this looks like a formula for inaction. Republicans and Democrats in Congress all feel comfortable and righteous in their position. Everybody is ready to blame everybody else, so there is no urgency to change course.
As Sir Isaac Newton would have said if he were a pol: "A government at rest will remain at rest until someone is about to lose power."