Ed is right that Obama’s budget is fodder for the hard-right conservatives who are whip-sawing the Republican primaries and draining the eventual nominee of strength. For everyone else, the budget is substantively irrelevant — presidents’ budgets for many years have been dead even before being pronounced D.O.A. on the Hill — and politically smart.
The Republicans are not having a good year so far. The worm seems to be turning for the president. The economy has five straight months of job growth, the stock market is up, there is a mortgage deal and a sense that Europe may muddle through. The president won on the payroll tax, looks reasonable on contraception — if Republicans thought social security was a third rail, contraception is the fourth — and has a budget that calls for sacrifice from the richest Americans, cuts to many government programs and investments in education and research. Sounds fairly reasonable, especially in contrast to the Republicans’ carping and extremism.
How are the Republicans countering? With year-old jokes and digs against Obama that have lost a bit of their punch. With snarls from Sen. Mitch McConnell on contraception that scare women and sneers from Rick Santorum. Newt Gingrich has lost his giddy-up, and the curtain is up on Romney's advisers as they furiously adjust the dials and levers to get their man right. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin is about to have her star turn in the movie “Game Change” Very scary.
Here's what is happening: the president may be entering a virtuous cycle: the economy perks up, the Republicans wilt, everything he touches suddenly shines a bit more. It’s all very fragile, of course, but it couldn’t come at a better time.