NPRA ’11: Republicans face delicate task for 2012 election

28 March 2011 20:17  [Source: ICIS news]

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (ICIS)--Republicans may have difficulty in translating their extraordinary wins in the 2010 mid-term elections into a broader victory in 2012 and their goal of unseating President Barack Obama, a leading political analyst said on Monday.

Ron Brownstein, political director at the Washington-insider news magazine National Journal, told chemicals sector executives at the 36th International Petrochemical Conference (IPC) that Republican leaders in the US House of Representatives must walk a fine line between opposing Obama and appearing excessive.

In the November 2010 midterm elections, Republicans won 63 seats and majority control in the 435-member House and gained six seats in the 100-member Senate, reducing the Democrat majority there to a slim 51 votes - all outcomes that generally were welcomed by US petrochemical producers and other manufacturing interests.

Brownstein noted that it was the most emphatic midterm election since 1938 and that Republicans won more seats in Congress than in any election since 1948.

“The Republicans also made extraordinary breakthroughs at the state legislative level,” he said, adding: “It was a very big election.”

However, many of the new Republicans sent by voters to Congress “believe that they were sent there to confront the president, not make deals”, Brownstein said.

That attitude could make trouble for House and Senate Republican leaders, he said, who hope to garner enough additional popular support to win both the Senate and the White House in 2012.

“The Republican freshmen have proven to be enormously powerful,” Brownstein said, “pulling the leadership to stronger positions on the federal budget and the national debt, taking a hard line on blocking EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] carbon regulations, and raising the prospect of a government shutdown.”

“Across the board, the Republican freshmen think they were sent to Washington not to compromise but to confront Obama,” he said.

But Republican leaders - House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell - remember the Republican-led government shutdown in 1995 that turned public opinion against Republicans and ultimately helped then-President Bill Clinton get re-elected in 1996.

“The lesson for Boehner and McConnell is that you can’t run the country from Congress, and they know there is only so far they can go on their agenda until they can elect a president in 2012, and in the meantime they do not want to seem excessive,” with, for example, another government shutdown, Brownstein said.

The Democrats, he said, are hoping the Republicans will overshoot, become too aggressive and unyielding and again force a government shutdown.

“So this will be the basic tension through to 2012,” Brownstein said, “with Republican leaders in Congress trying to balance the push by freshmen Republicans to undo Obama policies, and the recognition that there is only so much they can do until the 2012 elections.”

Brownstein was among speakers invited to the IPC to offer insight on the US political landscape and energy policy.

Sponsored by the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), the IPC runs through Tuesday.

Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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