Harvey Kronberg

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Posts by Harvey Kronberg

On the Agenda: GOP unhappiness with Republicans in Congress gives Obama opportunity

Commentary: It’s not any big secret that President Barack Obama is going to campaign against a do-nothing Congress in this election.

Seventy percent of voters tell pollsters that the country is heading in the wrong direction, and only 13 percent approve of the job done by Congress. It makes Obama’s average 45 percent approval rating look stratospheric.

Persistently high unemployment should make this a cake walk year for Republicans. The anti-Obama passion already has self-identified Republicans impatiently awaiting the 2012 election.

Dispirited Democrats didn’t turn out in 2010 creating a Republican tidal wave. It’s not at all clear yet that the president can revive the passions that made his first election possible.

While no one likes either party in Congress, it’s become a more serious problem for Republicans than Democrats.

A recent Pew Research Center poll frames the issue.

Pew reported two in three voters think most members of Congress should be voted out of office. The number of voters who want to fire their own congressman or woman matches two years ago when a record 58 incumbents were defeated

Here is the GOP problem. The poll concluded, “By wide margins, the GOP is seen as the party that is more extreme in its positions, less willing to work with the other side to get things done and less honest and ethical in the way it governs.”

That is a problem for the GOP, but the news actually gets even worse. According to the poll, 60 percent of Democrats approve of their congressional leadership while less than half of Republicans approve of theirs.

The flip side of the coin is President Obama’s approval, among the independent voter that will actually decide who wins the 2012 election, is still dismal.

Anything can happen, but as of today, it looks like the Republican nominee will need to separate himself from his party in congress, and that’s tough when you need to unify your party to win.

On the Agenda: Gingrich has long dominated national conversation without big dollar budgets

Commentary:It has been fascinating watching Newt Gingrich surge in the polls in his quest for the Republican nomination.

Gingrich has a long history of re-framing the national debate with no financial resources. He relies more on his formidable rhetorical skills than multi-million dollar campaign budgets.

In one respect, Gingrich was lucky. He and CSPAN both arrived in Congress at the same time three decades ago. Gingrich would use a parliamentary device called special orders to speak to an empty House chamber attacking Democrats. He so angered Tip O’Neill, the Democratic speaker ordered the cameras to pan the chamber to show Gingrich was speaking to an empty room.

Well the room may have been empty but the country was listening. Within a decade, Gingrich was the new Speaker.

This time, the new free platform projecting the under-funded Gingrich into top tier status has been the candidate debates. Voters started tuning in to take the measure of the much heralded Rick Perry. Perry has since imploded, but a staggering thirty million Americans have watched at least some part of the debates.

Ironically, Rick Perry’s campaign team quit Gingrich last summer because they thought the Speaker was undisciplined and unable to raise money. They underestimated Gingrich and over-estimated Perry. To be charitable, the Texas governor seems one dimensional compared to the more thoughtful and complicated responses of Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and even John Huntsman.

Seventy percent of Republicans apparently would prefer someone other than Romney.

While there have been all kinds of dynamics in these debates, it is clear that Newt Gingrich has earned a second look with nuanced, real-world answers while largely refusing to pander.

But Gingrich is also a seriously flawed candidate. His personal character is questionable and he is perfectly capable of self-combusting with over the top inflammatory rhetoric.

I have no idea whether or not Newt Gingrich can win. He may simply be the flavor of the day. Nevertheless, it is somehow heartening to see the power of ideas still has a role in political campaigns

On the Agenda: Serious issues remain if Perry returns for 2013 lege session

Commentary: For more than a year now, I have argued that Governor Rick Perry would be one of the top two Republican presidential contenders.

With each passing week, that position has gotten increasingly lonely. Mr. Perry has to show strong in Iowa and South Carolina or it’s over, yet he continues to poll poorly–no better than fourth in either state.

So now, the bar talk here in Austin is what will it be like if he is back for the 2013 session?

The simple answer is it couldn’t be any worse.

Yes, the Perry team is not likely to be humbled or forgiving. Neither humility nor forgiveness has ever been their strong suit.

But the state has real problems and we were all held hostage in the last legislative session by Governor Perry’s presidential ambitions.

He declared a half dozen emergency items that were not emergencies. Goofy things like sonograms and tort reform when, in fact, the real emergency facing Texas was and is a broken business tax digging an ever deeper hole into public school funding.

The issue has not gone away. In fact, it’s far worse. Even with a somewhat improving economy, Texas faces a likely $16 billion shortfall and will still have to find a way to fund 160,000 or more new public school students.

It is so bad that nearly three hundred school districts have joined lawsuits intended to force the legislature to act. So we are now treated to mostly Republican dominated school boards going to Republican dominated courts seeking to compel the Republican dominated legislature to act.

And that is just one issue. Last session was about burning the seed corn to give Mr. Perry and Lt. Governor Dewhurst talking points to wow Republican primary voters.

Fortunately, Speaker Joe Straus has stepped up to the plate and has at least begun talking about the public policy elephants in the room. If he comes back, we can only hope Governor Perry does the same.