Donald Trump did it again this week, grabbing the spotlight from potential GOP rivals by snapping up a winery in Virginia, an important swing state, and continuing to dabble in birther conspiracy theories and court the tea party. Polls show that Republican primary voters are high on the real estate tycoon, and Trump has said he is serious about a run, but others wonder how serious a candidate he would be.
Here’s what else we learned this week about 2012:
Shutdown Showdown: The politics of the budget showdown look very much like the 2010 midterm debate. Republicans have painted Democrats as big government liberals, and Democrats have painted Republicans as extreme on social issues and beholden to the tea party. While the specific back-and-forth over this year’s budget impasse probably won’t be on any minds this time next year, the underlying themes will be — spending, social issues and jobs.
The debate over funding for Planned Parenthood has united the fiscal and social wings of the Republican party, and the focus on abortion has invigorated the left, which has been disappointed by Obama’s move to the middle. Progressives, once derided by the White House as “the professional left,” will continue to look for Obama to stand up for their issues, while conservatives must still figure out how to stoke their base, without alienating independents. But as the next budget fight and debt debate looms, and 2012 inches closer, it is also clear that neither party has figured out how to effectively link budget cuts and deficit reduction to job creation.
In this budget fight, Obama has cast himself as above the fray, with Congress at arm’s length. His potential rivals have largely stayed out of the debate, though some have given a nod to the bigger fights over entitlement reform that lie ahead, lauding Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal. That suggests that, even if they aren’t in the fray now, they will be ready to engage in the future on the subject of on entitlement reform.
The new face of the DNC: Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.), got the nod from Obama to lead the Democratic National Committee for a couple of reasons: She’s a woman, she’s telegenic, she’s from Florida and she’s a proven and loyal fundraiser, particularly with old Clinton donors who haven’t yet fully come on board for Obama. In 2012, she’ll play the role Sen. Claire McCaskill played for Obama in 2008, giving the Democrats a way to sell their domestic agenda around health care and education to suburban women in particular. She will also serve as an envoy to many in the Jewish community, which sometimes has found Obama’s statements and positions on Israel unsatisfactory.
Her counter at the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, is busy rebuilding a party organization that won big in November, but lost ground on fundraising and outreach to minorities. On the latter score, Wasserman-Schultz does little to help the DNC with crucial outreach to minorities, espcially Latinos, in key swing states like Florida, Nevada and New Mexico, which strategists agree will be key to victory in 2012.
Obama’s launch: President Obama has at various times in his first term given himself a grade of either B+ or Incomplete. The official video launch of his re-election campaign shows that he’ll run for a second term with that same good-but-still-more-work-to-do attitude toward his record. On the stump in 2008, he had a riff in his speech about his wife Michelle reminding him everyday that he wasn’t a perfect man. This time, that idea will likely be much more prominent as he positions himself to voters, particularly independents. Obama is betting that he’ll come out ahead against his Republican opponent on that question and even some Republican strategists acknowledge what polls show, and that is that the President has a high likeability factor.
The video, which puts him out in front of his likely challengers, presents the challenges that he faces: He has to stoke the grassroots enthusiasm among African-Americans, college students, and young people, and re-engage white suburbanites. Meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee used the announcement to roll out a parody video, Mike Huckabee had fundraising in mind, and Tim Pawlenty, eager to raise his profile, went for a Jerry Bruckheimer style response video.