Kai Ryssdal: As if we needed confirmation that everything in Washington this year is being done with one eye firmly on the November election, no sooner did word leak about the Keystone pipeline decision this morning than House Speaker John Boehner said the president was hurting the economy. 'Course, the decision by the White House itself was political too, so that's the way it's going to be this year -- tit for tat on the economy.
Today, we've asked two commentators -- one Republican, the other a Democrat -- to explain on how the economy will almost certainly hurt the other guy worse come Election Day.
Jamal Simmons is the national Democratic editor of GoVote.com.
Jamal Simmons: By most measures our economy stinks. The stock market does loop-de-loops every week. Americans have had their homes foreclosed upon. The unemployment rate is declining, but too many people still can't find jobs. Meanwhile, the wealth gap has grown even wider and our debt grows larger. President Barack Obama is in real jeopardy of losing his job, but his renewed focus on the economy and his Republican opponents just might save him.
For the first two years of his presidency, Mr. Obama was focused on passing big policy changes such as the financial stimulus, health care and financial regulatory reform, but there was little economic messaging for Americans to hold onto. Since September, the president has been traveling the country relentlessly pushing jobs and economic plans -- and judging by recent polls, Americans are starting to like the focus.
Meanwhile, the Republicans in Congress have been fighting to protect tax cuts for the wealthy and the back and forth over the payroll tax cut smelled of politics, nothing more. And the Republican presidential primary process has degenerated into something akin to a circus.
First, Donald Trump spent weeks on television like a carnival barker trumpeting the non-controversy over the president's birth certificate. Then former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain joked and sang his way to first place with his 9-9-9 plan until he was deluged by controversy and dropped out. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney has been contorting himself into a pretzel by disavowing his previous policies to fit the desires of the GOP Right Wing and Newt Gingrich isn't even organized enough to get his name on the ballot in his adopted home state of Virginia.
The Republicans haven't projected the seriousness our current predicament requires and whoever emerges from their process may find it hard to escape the taint of this circus. That may leave a weak choice for voters looking for an alternative to President Obama.
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