Reading Romney’s Mind

Written by David Frum on Thursday April 7, 2011

As Republicans edge closer to a shutdown and Democrats get ready to run against the Ryan budget, what's going through Romney's head?

This has been my best week in politics since John McCain lost to Barack Obama.

I face two huge problems: getting nominated and getting elected.

To get nominated, I need to discredit the Tea Party before it can veto me.

To get elected, I need a double dip recession in 2012.

Thanks to Paul Ryan, both these outcomes have just come a big step closer.

Here's how Ryan helps me win the nomination:

This budget proposal will end in tears, especially if there is a government shutdown tomorrow. The Democrats know that few Americans understand the difference between the 2011 Continuing Resolution and the 2012 budget. The Democrats will pound home the message that Republicans shut down the government so that they can cancel Medicare for everyone under 55, gut Medicaid, and cut taxes for the rich. Ryan is the hero of the party today. Six weeks from now, Republicans will feel about him the way the Confederacy felt about George Pickett six weeks after Gettysburg. Battered and chastened, Republicans will be less resistant to the safe choice demanded by big party donors: i.e., me.

Of course, winning the nomination is the easy part. Incumbent presidents are hard to beat. But they can be beaten if the economy suffers badly enough. And happily for me, there is lots of bad news: rising oil prices for example. Look for a bad economic growth report at the end of April. Monetary policy is exhausted, it's hard to imagine the Federal Reserve daring a third quantitative easing - harder to imagine the quantitative easing working.

So: fiscal stimulus? No way! Remember, the payroll tax holiday expires December. Do you think House Republicans will agree to renew it? Especially after Obama beats them up all this year over Ryan's Medicare cuts?  As born-again conservative Donald Trump would say: fuggedboutit. (By the way - thanks Donald, for killing Newt Gingrich's candidacy. I owe you.) Which means we'll start 2012 with a big tax increase on every working person - and very possibly a second tumble into recession.

Republicans want tighter monetary policy and tighter fiscal policy. They may get it too. That means recession. And recession means: me.