Vol. 45, No. 4

In this Edition

With the 2012 general election less than a year away, it’s probably safe to say that the current crop of GOP presidential candidates has not exactly set the world on fire. 

Debt Reduction Done Right

With the debt at historic levels, this respected budget expert argues that what the country needs is a bold and balanced plan to curb spending and get the economy back on track.

The Rise of the Supercommittee and the Repercussions of Inaction

This former Staff Director of the Senate Budget Committee predicts the deficit supercommittee will reach agreement on a plan to reduce the debt. Unfortunately, he argues, it won’t do much good.

California Dreamin’

After a bipartisan gerrymander designed to protect incumbents was approved in 2001, voters passed a redistricting reform plan to shake things up. Will it work in 2011?

The Loneliest Airplane

Brad Todd discusses how a ride on Air Force One is usually high on the wish list for senatorial candidates. With the President’s plummeting poll numbers, that’s no longer the case.

The Forgotten Prize of 2012

Amid all the coverage of the presidential campaign, the Utah Senator explains why the GOP’s biggest victory next year may not be winning the White House, but the Senate.

Defending the House in a Volatile Year

With House Republicans looking to hold and build their majority on Capitol Hill, this pollster looks at the factors that will both help and hinder their ability to achieve that goal.

Republicans Aim for a Southern Statehouse Sweep

Twenty years ago, Republicans did not control a single Southern legislative chamber. As this veteran newsman points out, they now hold majorities in over three-quarters of them.

Ripon Profile of Bill Haslam

Bill Haslam discusses his priorities as Governor of the Volunteer State.

In this Edition

With the 2012 general election less than a year away, it’s probably safe to say that the current crop of GOP presidential candidates has not exactly set the world on fire. 

From Herman Cain’s “Excuse me!” to Rick Perry’s “Oops,” the coverage of the contest has left many Republicans feeling downright gloomy about the party’s prospects of recapturing the White House next year. 

Amid all this gloom and amid all the coverage lies a bright spot for the Republicans – namely, the fact that the party stands an excellent chance of winning control of the Senate next year. In that regard, it can be said that the Senate is “The Forgotten Prize of 2012.” 

It is a prize that – assuming the party retains its majority in the House as is currently expected – will give Republicans outright control of the Legislative Branch for first time since 2006. It’s also a prize that Republican media guru Brad Todd and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch write about in essays for this latest edition of THE RIPON FORUM. 

In his essay, Todd shines a light on Air Force One. In most campaigns, Todd writes, candidates are lining up for rides on the President’s plane. But President Obama’s sagging poll numbers have changed that equation. As a result, Todd argues, Air Force One will not only be “The Loneliest Airplane” of the coming campaign, but “a metaphor for the Democrats’ dwindling Senate prospects” next year. 

If Republicans do win control of the upper chamber, what will they do? Senator Hatch focuses on this question by writing about the legislative agenda that would be advanced should the GOP seize control. From rolling back regulations to overturning Obamacare, GOP priorities that have been stymied on Capitol Hill over the past two years would see the light of day and end up on the President’s desk for him to sign or suppress. 

But of course, as with anything else in this volatile political climate, success is not a given. Pollster John McLaughlin writes about this volatility in another essay for our latest edition — an essay that focuses on the Republican challenge to retain and build their House majority. The party will be undertaking this challenge in an environment that is anything but predictable. The days of decades-long dominance are over, McLaughin writes, replaced by a dynamic in which the mood of the electorate shifts every few years. 

If there is any one issue affecting the mood of the electorate today, it is the economy, and the failure of Washington lawmakers to settle on a policy that spurs growth and creates jobs. According to budget expert Maya MacGuineas, one policy that would achieve that very objective would be a debt reduction plan that is bold in its thinking and long-term in its approach. 

Many, including MacGuineas, hope such an approach will be advocated by the debt supercommittee that has been meeting this fall. But, in an essay looking at the panel’s formation and what kind of package they might recommend, former Senate Budget Committee Staff Director Steve Bell strikes a more pessimistic tone, noting that if the supercommittee does reach agreement on a debt reduction package, it is likely to be one that barely meets its mandate and inadequately addresses our Nation’s long-term fiscal needs. 

This edition of the FORUM also features California redistricting expert Eric McGhee’s assessment of the redistricting reform effort underway in that State. And, in our latest Ripon Profile, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam discusses his first year in office and his priorities in the job. 

As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of the Forum and encourage you to write us at editor@riponsociety.org with any thoughts or comments you may have.  

Lou Zickar
The Ripon Forum