The Political Risks of Cliff-Diving

In his latest piece, Karl Rove describes the political realities of going over the fiscal cliff.  His bottom line is that the result from such an event may harm both the President and Congress, however, the lasting effect could cripple Obama during his second term.

If negotiations stall and Washington plunges over the fiscal cliff, it will weaken Mr. Obama’s ability to bend Congress to his will, hasten the moment when congressional Democrats become more concerned about their standing than that of a lame-duck president, and further poison relations with Republicans.

On top of all that, a second-term president has total ownership of the economy. If the Congressional Budget Office is correct and going over the fiscal cliff causes the economy to shrink and unemployment to rise—while Americans see tax bills going up an average of nearly $3,500—then Republicans won’t escape blame but neither will the president. The damage to him may be long-lasting.

A weakened Mr. Obama makes recruiting and preparing for the 2014 midterms easier for Republicans and harder for Democrats.

 He also spells out the strategy that the GOP should follow in navigating the fiscal cliff issue:

The key for Republicans is to appear flexible rather than intransigent, willing to compromise rather than eager for a political smashup. This requires them to keep offering sensible alternatives and emphasizing that the country’s problem is too much spending. It will eventually sink in with many voters that Mr. Obama previously endorsed the GOP’s approach of generating more revenue through tax reform (not increased tax rates) and that his real goal is bigger government, not smaller deficits.

Republicans, therefore, must continue to volley.  Always put the ball back in the President’s court and make him decide that he’s out of ideas.