The rush is on once again for immediate declarations of winners and losers after a showdown between the White House and the Congress. This time, the consensus winner is President Obama and the consensus loser is the tea-party wing of the Republican caucus. Even the staunchly conservative Breitbart website ran a story Thursday stating, “There is no question that, from a purely partisan point of view, Obama won.” The report asked, “[O]bjectively, did Obama win a political victory?” Its immediate answer was, “Yes.”
Other stories have predicted dire times for Republican Senate candidates in elections 13 months from now and even projected success for Democrats in the 2016 presidential race. But before looking that far ahead, a look backward suggests some caution on what Vice President Spiro Agnew first disparaged as “instant analysis,” particularly on something as nebulous as an agreement to kick the spending can down the road.
A look back on the 2011 and 2012 showdowns between the Obama White House and the Capitol Hill Republicans shows similar unanimity that the president had clearly bested Speaker John Boehner and the GOP. Obama had gotten the Republicans to agree to changes in the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and had managed to get the Republicans to accept the threat of sequester cuts in spending programs. Everybody agreed that the Republicans would never consent to implementation of those cuts because they included unacceptably low levels of military spending. In a debate with Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, the president gave voice to the D.C. conventional wisdom. “The sequester is not something that I proposed. It’s something that Congress has proposed,” said Obama. “It will not happen.”
Few disagreed with him, which is one of the reasons he was adjudged a winner in his fights with Congress. It was the conventional wisdom almost until the day the first round of the sequester cuts went into effect.
Another consensus “winner” in the past fights was Vice President Joe Biden. On Jan. 2 of this year, CNN.com carried a story hailing his role and suggesting it could help him become president some day. “Biden hasn’t ruled out a run for the White House when Obama’s second term is up,” wrote John Helton of CNN. “And his role in this deal makes a President Biden believable.”
But, again, the tide of opinion among Democrats on Capitol Hill shifted. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, among others, grew to believe Biden had given up too much. In this latest battle, Reid made sure that he was doing the negotiating with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Biden was sidelined.
Instant predictions are also limited because it is hard to imagine the many mistakes politicians can make in the future. CNN correctly cast House Republicans as losers in the fiscal-cliff showdown. But they suggested the caucus had hit rock bottom. “Could their reputation get any worse?” Ten months later, after a three-week government shutdown and a quixotic charge at Obamacare, the answer, surprisingly, is yes.
What We're Following See More »
Despite trailing Hillary Clinton by a significant margin, Bernie Sanders wasn't going the way of Ted Cruz tonight. The Vermont senator upset Clinton in Indiana, with MSNBC calling the race at 9pm. Sanders appears poised to win by a five- or six-point spread.
And just like that, it's over. Ted Cruz will suspend his presidential campaign after losing badly to Donald Trump in Indiana tonight. "While Cruz had always hedged when asked whether he would quit if he lost Indiana; his campaign had laid a huge bet on the state." John Kasich's campaign has pledged to carry on. “From the beginning, I’ve said that I would continue on as long as there was a viable path to victory,” said Cruz. “Tonight, I’m sorry to say it appears that path has been foreclosed."
The Republican establishment's last remaining hope—a contested convention this summer—may have just ended in Indiana, as Donald Trump won a decisive victory over Ted Cruz. Nothing Cruz seemed to have in his corner seemed to help—not a presumptive VP pick in Carly Fiorina, not a midwestern state where he's done well in the past, and not the state's legions of conservatives. Though Trump "won't secure the 1,237 delegates he needs to formally claim the nomination until June, his Indiana triumph makes it almost impossible to stop him. Following his decisive wins in New York and other East Coast states, the Indiana victory could put Trump within 200 delegates of the magic number he needs to clinch the nomination." Cruz, meanwhile, "now faces the agonizing choice of whether to remain in the race, with his attempt to force the party into a contested convention in tatters, or to bow out and cede the party nomination to his political nemesis." The Associated Press, which called the race at 7pm, predicts Trump will win at least 45 delegates.