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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

WASHINGTON — Hours before the negotiations on the debt limit between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner collapsed, political reporters received a missive from Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign that served as a reminder of how irrelevant this kerfuffle might feel next year.

The headline read, “Romney for President Launches New Web Video: Obama Isn’t Working: Where are the Jobs?”

The video spoke to the difficulties that new college graduates are having finding work in a brutal job market. This bit of campaign propaganda went straight at the core of Obama’s political base — young Americans who volunteered for him by the tens of thousands in 2008 and powered him to victory in state after state. If joblessness disillusions enough of them, the president will be in trouble.

Romney’s exercise was a passing bit of politics unlikely to make many waves in an environment obsessed with debt and fears of default. But it was hugely instructive.

The Romney message was more in touch with what voters are worried about than the spectacular show of dysfunction Washington politicians are putting on. Consider a Gallup Poll released last week. Asked what was the most important problem facing the country, 31 percent of Americans said the economy and an additional 27 percent specifically said unemployment and jobs, for a total of 58 percent. Only 16 percent listed the deficit or the debt.

While the president was snared in a trap set by the Republicans over the debt ceiling, Romney was out there campaigning on the electorate’s animating issue. It’s a nice division of labor for the GOP. Obama is caught up in the tea party’s priorities. Romney isn’t. It’s upside-down politics.

None of this takes away from the fact that Obama was right to be angry at the collapse of his talks with Boehner. He was entirely justified in calling out House Republicans for refusing to accept what would have been an excellent deal from their own point of view. Obama went far more than half way to accommodate conservatives with a deal that tilted heavily toward spending cuts. As the president himself said, if the deal he offered was “unbalanced,” it was unbalanced on the side of not including enough tax revenues. This would have made Obama’s own supporters very unhappy.

By rejecting this way out, House Republicans have shown they simply cannot govern. When control of government is divided between two parties, each party has to give some ground. But Boehner’s GOP majority includes dozens of members who don’t even think that defaulting on our debt is a problem, and do believe they can eventually get what they want if they keep saying “no” to every other alternative.

This is a recipe for catastrophe, which is what we are getting perilously close to now. It is a clear demonstration that this House majority does take its responsibilities seriously. Too many of its members seem to forget that they are no longer outsiders free to protest, and proclaim their purity. They are part of the government of the United States. The fact that they are not willing to act that way now threatens the nation’s economy.

Which brings us back to Romney. To this point, he has been free to run more of a general election race than a primary campaign. He can talk about jobs while Obama is grappling with how to run a government paralyzed by the tea party.

But this breakdown in Washington is too big an issue for Republican primary voters to ignore. If Rick Perry, Texas’ right-wing governor, enters the race as expected, he will appeal to the tea party rejectionists and try to cast Romney as some sort of moderate — a very dangerous thing to be among Republican primary voters these days. Will Romney have the courage to insist that the radicalism represented by the tea party is not authentic conservatism, not the path to a Republican victory, and not a formula for effective government? I’m not holding my breath, but this crisis calls for a period of reckoning inside the GOP. The presidential primary campaign is the obvious moment for it to happen.

In the meantime, Obama should watch that Romney ad on jobs several times. By letting the congressional Republicans set his agenda, he’s gotten away from the one issue most likely to determine his fate in 2012. He should remember that the day after this debt crisis is settled, the Republicans’ question will be: Where are the jobs?

E.J. Dionne’s email address is ejdionne(at)washpost.com.

(c) 2011, Washington Post Writers Group

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]