In an odd moment from this week, an eagle-eyed Taegan Goddard found a strangely pessimistic image on the RNC's website -- pessimistic, that is, from the RNC's perspective. On an image depicting "Obama's Last Day," there was an accompanying datestamp: "January 20, 2017." We thought, "Wow, we know that Republican voters are down on the 2012 field of candidates, but where's the pride, man?"
The image has since been corrected, and it makes a certain amount of sense, because if there was ever a week to doubt whether President Barack Obama would earn a second term, it was this week. The debt ceiling debate ended in a deal that left Democratic voters disgruntled and independent voters alienated. That was followed up by a staggering drop in the Dow, and another miserable jobs report. The administration once again promised a "pivot to jobs," but the problem was that the debt ceiling bargain itself offers precious little room to do anything. And the worst news was that the Economic Policy Institute projected that the debt ceiling deal itself was going to result in the loss of 1.8 million jobs between now and 2012.
So, the hostages weren't spared in the end. Instead, ordinary Americans will take a slow-motion bullet to their hopes over the next year and a half. And while in practical terms, it is the people who took the hostages in the first place who own the coming malaise, the fact that everyone signed on in equal measure will allow everyone to spin it however they like. There are plenty of people who think that in the end, the GOP primary process is destined to crown a radical candidate, but in such dire economic times, you have to alter your definition of "electable."
Over in the GOP field, the emerging candidate might be the one we haven't added to the slideshow, but who looks certain to join very soon -- Texas Governor Rick Perry. The emerging consensus among political observers is that Perry looks like the guy who will eventually become locked in a fight at the top with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. According to the conventional wisdom, Perry entering the race would cause Michele Bachmann's support to collapse and flow in his direction, setting up a battle between a guy who's way out on the rightward fringes but remarkably consistent, against a guy who looks electable but has a nagging habit of changing his mind over and over again, in sometimes comical fashion. (Seemingly confirming this, this week, Bachmann's campaign manager had a message for Perry: "Stay in Texas." with an implied "pretty please," perhaps.)
But while Perry portends a possible shake-up to come, the fact that he has yet to declare his candidacy doesn't mean the field is placid at the moment. Rivals continue to beef with each other. Ron Paul has hit Romney. Tim Pawlenty has gone at Bachmann. Bachmann's camp took a shot at Herman Cain. And the word on the street this week was that internecine war has broken out in Jon Huntsman's campaign. It's pretty clear that going in to next week's debate in Iowa and the subsequent Ames Straw Poll, the stakes are starting to rise again.
But it wasn't all so serious! This week, Newt Gingrich got mired in the most important Twitter dispute of all time. Ron Paul defended his decision to have his campaign T-shirts made by overseas slave labor. Fred Karger doubled his support -- and may have earned the right to join the Iowa debate. Buddy Roemer's decided that Comedy Central may be the best forum for his views. And what on earth is Rick Santorum pledging to distribute at Ames? To find out all of this and more, please feel free to enter the Speculatron for the week of August 5, 2011.