The ongoing bickering among Democrats and Republicans in Washington, D.C., is nothing new, but according to Dr. Andrew Green, Political Science Professor at Central College, President Barack Obama is having a more difficult time than some of his predecessors.
According to Green, many of the Republicans sent to the House represent districts in which Obama did not receive 40 percent of the vote. In today’s political climate, if a Republican serving in the House does not continue to lean to the Right, he or she could face a primary challenger.
In the past, Presidents have been able to roll into some of the districts of their opposition in Congress, to sway public support his way. President Ronald Reagan was successfully able to change votes of Democratic representatives by doing this, but it will not work for Obama.
“The President isn’t afforded that in this scenario,” Green said. Though the Democrats were able to make gains in some of these districts in 2006 and 2008, they have returned to Republicans since 2010.
The Republicans in Congress could have more success in getting the President to bend to their will if they put more focus on truths coming from Washington about the $16.5 trillion debt, the fact that nearly 50 cents of every dollar Washington spends is borrowed and that the sequester – forced reductions in the growth rate of spending over the next 10 years – was the President’s idea.
“(Republicans are) using the same tired strategy they’ve tried for the past four years,” Green said. He added that the sky is not falling, and that the Republicans have been baited into a political game, while missing a message that could resonate with Americans. Meanwhile, the President does not have the leverage he thinks he does, according to Green.
Green believes the National Republican Party is lacking a voice, a true leader. He does not think that could be Speaker of the House John Boehner, who gave in on the President’s demand for $650 billion in new taxes.
“They need a national figure to emerge as a leader,” Green said.
Boehner’s speakership is safe, though, because a challenge could divide House Republicans.
“Who in that caucus could beat him?” Green asked
If any Republican fails to get a majority of votes for Speaker of the House, the Democrats may be able to vote Nancy Pelosi into the role, despite the fact that her party is in the minority.
“These guys and gals don’t want to lose at anything,” Green said. . He believes that if Boehner did not think he could hold onto his seat, or the speakership, Boehner would have retired. Most politicians, when they don’t believe they can be reelected, will strategically retire. As for Boehner, Green believes the Speaker is in a no-win situation, as his caucus is not united. The Republicans need to have more of a “big tent,” but too many House Republicans are not in favor of that.
Green believes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush could unite the party and may potentially run for President in 2016.
“They both have credibility on many, many issues,” Green said. He is most impressed by Christie’s 74 percent approval rating and the gains Christie has made in New Jersey, consistently a Democratic stronghold.
“He’s proven he can do it in a Left-leaning state,” Green said of Christie. Jeb Bush, on the other hand, would be able to run strong on education and immigration.
“His only issue is that he’s a Bush,” Green said. He is not sure if America would elect a third Bush to the Presidency, or if it’s too soon after George W.’s terms.
The Republican Party, overall, is walking a fine line regarding its future. Green believes the party’s leader, Reince Prebus, has been ineffective. The Republicans did not make gains in 2012, though it was a good year. Compared to Prebus’ predecessor, Michael Steele, in regard to fund raising, Prebus does not measure up. Despite Steele’s non-political shenanigans, Green said Steele was good at raising money and delivered a successful 2010 for the party.
Looking ahead to 2016 on the Democratic side, Green believes that if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chooses to make another run at the Presidency, it will clear the field. Democrats are likely to get behind Clinton from the beginning. If this happens, and the Republicans have another nine-contestant race, it will be difficult for Republicans to get back into the White House.
Green believes Republicans should “boil down” its candidate base to two or three candidates. Leaders of the party, on the national level, may try to do that. However, Iowa Republicans still have the first in the nation caucus. Iowans respond to those who visit the state, so Green stresses that if the party, at a national level, picks favorites, they need to spend time here.
“I think they’re going to have to let it play out,” Green said.
The grassroots campaign could only help Republicans. Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns were successful in Iowa because of the boots on the ground the President had. Even at Central College, the Obama campaign was much stronger and more willing to engage students than the campaigns of either John McCain or Mitt Romney.
“They’ve forgotten how to grassroots mobilize,” Green said of Republicans. In his opinion, the party should not wait until 2016 to reboot the grassroots mentality. They should get ready for it for the 2014 mid-term election.
Mobilizing the absentee vote for Republicans will also be important. Votes cast on Election Day for Romney outnumbered those for Obama, but enough Obama voters had already submitted their ballots to raise his vote total to win the state.
Green was also asked about the state of the Iowa Legislature. He is unsure why the State Senate has not taken action on many bills this term, though we are now past the “funnel week.”