Two Minute Barack?

My favorite quarterback of all time is Tommy Kramer.  I think he earned my loyalty when he replaced Fran Tarkenton in a December 1977 game against the 49ers in which the Vikings trailed 24-0 in the third quarter.   Kramer led a spectacular comeback, hitting Sammy White for the winning touchdown, 28-27.   He became known as two minute Tommy, a quarterback whose arm was strong and accurate enough to keep any game within reach.  One memory is watching the Vikings come back against Cleveland in 1980, winning and making the playoffs on a last second pass to Ahmad Rashad.  My dad and I jumped up in celebration, causing my mom to drop the grocery bags she was bringing in the house to rush in and see what was wrong — she thought my dad had had a heart attack.

Kramer had some truly awesome performances, but there was a kind of routine to his comebacks.  He’d make little errors, miss some key throws, and look a bit inconsistent early in the game, setting up the need for a comeback.    He had trouble just playing it safe or holding a lead, he was best when he was poised to use his arm to lead a come back.

Right now the political pundits are singing in unison: the Republicans will win big in November, perhaps retaking both the House and Senate, and Obama’s Presidency, after an oh so promising start, is starting to unravel.   The reason is clear: the economy has not recovered, and people are in a sour mood.   And, though Reagan and Clinton faced similar problems at the same stage of their Presidency (Obama scores slightly above them in approval ratings, in fact), the sense is that the Democrats are in for a thumping.    Obama hasn’t been written off for 2012 — the economy may improve by then — but if this were a football game, we’d be in the third quarter and the score would be 24-0.

Kramer’s heroics came to mind when I watched a clip of Obama on stage, feisty and ready to campaign hard for the Midterms.  His Presidency has been like Kramer’s play — competent, some signs of brilliance (he actually got more accomplished in terms of legislation than most Presidents in a short time), but also a number of unforced errors and apparent inattention.   The result is that he’s fallen behind, and his only chance to improve his standing and save his party in November is to go deep.   He has to take some risks and go on offense.

He may just pull it off.  The Republicans have every reason to be gleeful about their prospects, but it’s early — and it’s possible they peaked too soon.   In fact, from the Democratic perspective this has its silver lining.  If it looked as if the Republicans would pick up seats but gain majorities, Democrats would likely remain unenthused.   They expected major change from Obama, and a President simply isn’t powerful enough to pull that off, especially when fighting an economic crisis which I labeled “Great Depression II” the other day.

If, however, the Democrats can put together clips from Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Congressman Boehner, and a few others, and make a compelling argument that the Republican party is in the hands of ideologues whose ideas are dangerous and erratic, a lot of people who now say “generic Republican” to pollsters might rethink how they’ll vote on the individuals running in their races.   The Democrats also need to pound home the point that the Republicans have no plan.  Saying “cut taxes and cut spending” is easy as a slogan, but what will that mean in reality?   Will it just be a return to the policies that brought us to this point?   The GOP is purposefully (and smartly) silent on that — that’s why in times like these it’s much easier to be in the opposition.

The Republicans also have to worry about complacency, and outlandish statements coming out of some of their quarters.   They’ve embraced issues like the mosque at ground zero (actually a community center blocks away) and a strong stance on illegal immigration, two issues which could hurt them in the eyes of independents, and could inspire Hispanic turn out against the Republicans.

Of course, Kramer’s comebacks sometimes fell short.  In 1985 I was at the Metrodome when the Vikings took on the Eagles.    They lost 37-35, despite a brilliant effort by Kramer.   His final pass was caught in field goal range and the receiver got out of bounds…but time had run out.   But for a few seconds the game was lost.  Still, it was thrilling to watch.  If Obama’s comeback effort falls short, it may not be that bad for him in the long run.   He’s not up for re-election until 2012, and like Clinton in 1996, he may benefit from the Republicans over-reaching and thinking that disappointment with the status quo was a mandate for radical change.

  1. #1 by mike lovell on September 9, 2010 - 15:19

    Well Kudos to you Scott, I now have a new sworn enemy in Kramer (living or dead, active or inactive) thanks to your memory of him taking back a 24-0 lead to win against my beloved 49ers a mere two years before I was born. May the Saints stomp your Vikes tonight and injure Brett Favre into necessary, immediate, and permanent retirement! LOL

    I have to agree that I think republican fervor may have peaked too soon. Hard to say how long things will continue on or lose their flavor at this point. I think the republicans and the more conservative members of the party (or tea party, whatever) spend too much time focusing on issues that won’t fix anything, be it the mosque, gay marriage, etc.

    As for their economic policy, I think they need to learn that taxing and spending do not have to go the same direction simultaneously. The spending needs to go down, and what spending is being done needs to be better tracked and better applied to where it actually matters. The tax rates should either remain at their level or have the slightest of increases at most during this time.

    As for the Dems, they keep talking about socking it to the the rich, even though their definition of rich is always wavering and lowering in application compared to their carefully prepared speeches. And yet, when applying stimulus funds left and right, they give it to those same rich guys, who also happen to be the same rich guys who they say if given tax credits or breaks won’t let it ‘trickle down’.

    Sounds like a lot of heavy handed politicking, and sadly most voters don’t even notice such things, at least not on their side of the issue. And it happens on all sides, with no party being the exclusive fiscal problem solving group.

  2. #2 by renaissanceguy on September 12, 2010 - 13:23

    I think the most troubling thing that you wrote is that the Democrats should play clips of Beck, Limbaugh, and others. You of all people realize that these guys have no actual power within the GOP organization. At most they influence people on the grassroots level. And they would have no influence at all, if those people did not like what they say and agree with them.

    It would be dishonest to portray radio and TV personalities as the voice of the GOP. Rather, they are to a greater or lesser extent representative of the voice of ordinary right-leaning citizens.


    Mike, it is sad that most people do not notice the political sleight of hand that is constantly going on. I think you are right. However, I think there is porbably more cynicism now than ever before. I think more people are looking for alternatives to the current Democratic machinery and the current Repuclican machinery than ever before. A lot of the young people that I know personally are feeling that way.


    • #3 by Scott Erb on September 12, 2010 - 14:40

      I am tempted to agree, but I think people like Beck and Palin have a lot of influence on what the GOP does (and Boehner certainly does) so playing clips of them to fire up the Democratic base doesn’t seem dishonest. But in general, bth parties play the game in a very Machiavellian way, and if I were to give strategy advice to either party, I’d have to acknowledge that the high road usually loses elections. Michael Dukakis found that out in 1988 when he looked at Lee Atwater’s tactics with disdain and let himself be ridiculed into becoming a caricature. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton focused on image over substance. So when I put on a political strategist’s hat, I think of the horse race — and in that neither party plays completely honestly or fairly.

      I do think you’re right at the end — I’m also not happy with party machinery (that’s one reason Obama got elected — he was seen as an outsider), and in fact I’ve voted GOP for recent Senate races because my Republican Senators actually try to work to find compromises and avoid ideological games.

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