The Campaign Is Over. Long Live the Campaign.
This is part of a continuing dialogue between Ramesh Ponnuru and Margaret Carlson about the 2012 campaign.
Margaret: Sane people -- and I'm not talking about you or me, Ramesh -- will wake up Wednesday morning as if so much is finally settled. No matter who wins, an election is a fresh start. Most people will get on with their lives.
I will wake up depressed. A few weeks ago Jon Stewart made terrible fun of a political analyst who opened her broadcast noting that the first thing she did every morning was check the polls. That's what most people I know do. Does arriving at the office armed with the latest numbers from Ohio make us pollaholics?
I'm going to take the cure anyway -- but not until it's over, when I will sort out just what the looming sequester means. No more trivia about the meaning of Romney's Dad jeans or Obama's open collar. No more pondering why their near-matching navy blue bomber jackets made the buddy movie starring President Barack Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie that much more potent.
But before we leave campaign 2012, and are forced to consider how the folks that win are actually going to govern the mess we are all in, I hereby offer my election postmortem -- one day early!
If Romney wins, we will look back on his decision to move back to the center at the first debate as the most important moment of the campaign. Any sooner and he would have had to spend millions getting his final set of flip-flops out. Equally important -- and mystifying -- will be Obama's total cooperation. Of all the places in all the world to give vent to disdain and arrogance, why did Obama choose the first debate?
If Obama wins, on the other hand -- well, I have already explained how and why he will.
Whatever happens, I will miss picking apart the candidates E.Q., or lack thereof. It is so much easier than sorting out the sequester, the debt ceiling, a downturn in the U.S. credit rating, the effective tax rate on the extremely wealthy …
(Margaret Carlson is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow her on Twitter.)
Ramesh: Margaret, you’re not nearly as hard a case as I am. You’ve just been checking the polls every morning? I do that, then go to the political futures markets, and then hit the websites that analyze the polls from the left and right. Then I check my inbox, where I see multiple copies of the same press release, in which either some politician is explaining why the candidate of his party has the right “vision for our future” and the other guy doesn’t, or some operative is telling me why the early-voting numbers spell doom for the other party.
I am going to have a lot more free time -- or I would if there weren’t so much about to happen in Washington. More, of course, if Romney wins: The Romneyites have been working quite hard to plan the transition that might not take place. Even if Obama wins, there will be a round of speculation about changes to his Cabinet. Some of my liberal friends are worried that Obama really will strike a deal on entitlements. (Can InTrade set up a market where people can bet on whether there will finally be a “grand bargain” on the debt?) I’ve read a lot about the “fiscal cliff” coming in January, when taxes go up and spending gets cut. Even more potentially dramatic -- and dangerous -- is that we are likely to hit the debt ceiling again.
It’s hard to believe that neither the cliff nor the ceiling was much of an issue in the presidential race. Nor was the crisis in Europe, which seems to have been deferred but not solved. Some campaign years are dumb: The first one I really remember, 1988, featured an extended debate about the Pledge of Allegiance. This year has seen a pretty stark contrast between the stakes for the country and the topics of the campaign. The economy is producing jobs at a rate that will get us back to normal in about 20 years -- yet neither candidate had much to say about how he would speed it up. We’re closing the campaign, instead, with Obama telling his supporters that “voting is the best revenge” and Romney chiding him for saying that.
So there’s one last thing we disagree about in this election, Margaret: I’m not going to miss this campaign at all.
(Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him in Twitter.)
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