Week Ahead In Politics: Obama's 2012 Bid; Federal Budget
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
President Obama announced his re-election bid this morning. That makes him the first official candidate in the 2012 race.
Before the country gets to that election it faces a more immediate hurdle: Funding the federal government. Congress is locked in a battle over the budget that is posing fundamental questions about the message the American people sent in the last election.
NPRs Cokie Roberts is with us, as she usually is on Monday mornings, to talk about all this. Good morning.
COKIE ROBERTS: Hi, Renee.
MONTAGNE: President Obamas announcement for re-election this morning was a far cry from the day he threw his hat into the ring in front of screaming crowd four years ago. Instead, he posted his announcement on the Internet. So, why this low key approach?
ROBERTS: Well, he's trying to make it all about the voters, not him. And in that Internet posting, he had supporters talking about how important it is. He also sent out emails, to millions of supporters, saying we're doing this now because the politics we believe does not start with expensive TV ads or extravaganzas, but with you. And he says that kind of campaign takes time to build. That means it takes time, Renee, to raise a whole lot of money which he can start doing, officially, now. And some are expecting this to be a billion-dollar campaign. He raised 750 million in the last one, even more this time around.
But there's also a sense of letting his supporters in on it; enhancing their participation, recapturing some of the excitement from his first campaign when all things seemed possible if you had a cell phone or BlackBerry.
But, you know, even the technology has moved on since then and other forces are taking advantage of that technology; most noticeable in terms of the ongoing budget debate, it's the Tea Party which is using networking techniques to energize its followers, and let them know everything that's going on in Washington in real time. And that's having the effect of allowing the Tea Party supporters to keep up the pressure, to keep pushing, pushing, pushing for more and more cuts in federal spending.
MONTAGNE: What is then is the state of play? We know there's another government shutdown looming. Whats likely to happen?
ROBERTS: Well, there's a difference of opinion among Republicans about how the previous government shutdown worked for them. The newcomers, those 87 House Republican freshmen, some of them think it could force yet more spending cuts for this year's. Other Republicans think it worked horribly, in 1995, for them and they want to avoid it at almost all costs.
Look, one big difference between now and then is that the Republicans who won in 1994, to take control of the Congress for the first time in 40 years, thought that their leaders had brought them in - Newt Gingrich in particular -and they wouldnt have been there without him. So when he advised something, they followed it.
Now a lot of the Republicans who are there, don't think they got here because of anyone but fed up voters. And they think those voters are still fed up and that makes it hard for their leaders.
Now, the Democratic leaders are trying to capitalize on the Tea Party's declining poll numbers. So heres Senator, Democratic leader, Harry Reid on CBS yesterday.
Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada, Majority Leader): The Republican leadership in the House has to make a decision, whether theyre going to do the right thing for the country or do the right thing for the Tea Party.
ROBERTS: Now, they're hoping to paint the Republicans as out of the mainstream. Some Democrats think a government shutdown would do that, and some of those Democrats are pushing for it. Others just think it would show everyone in Washington that Washington is incompetent and it wouldnt work for anyone.
MONTAGNE: So what is likely to happen on the government spending question?
ROBERTS: Well, right now, no one's willing to predict whether there will be a partial government shutdown or not. But right now, Democrats are talking about $33 billion more in cuts from government programs. So the Republicans have really won on substance; they keep cutting more and more with each of these stopgap bills. But their leaders are having trouble saying make the deal, close the deal, because they're really not listening to the perspective of experience.
MONTAGNE: Well, just briefly, Cokie, what about the current political polls? President Obama appears to be doing pretty well these days.
ROBERTS: Well, he does. For all his troubles, his approval ratings hover just above or below 50 percent. But he seems to be in any, candidate-by-candidate, matchup, beating any Republican who is mentioned. And I think he's ready to just sort of play out the string. But that's hard to do for a year and half.
MONTAGNE: NPR's Cokie Roberts.
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