Super committee, Electoral College and demise of Perry for president

Some late fall musings:

Super committee conflicts: Missed opportunities in Washington, D.C., are a dime a dozen these days. They’re everywhere — like fall leaves piled up to your ankles the day after you raked fall leaves piled up to your ankles.

To that mound of missed moments to improve the outlook of an ailing country, it increasingly looks like there will be a disappointing new addition: the super committee that, until now, has been anything but.

The super committee was created as a last ditch Hail Mary (or was it a punt?) when the president and Congress couldn’t come up with a real plan to curb spending during the embarrassing national debacle that was the debt-ceiling debate. As the uber panel’s deadline to cut a trillion bucks comes due, it is looking more and more like the best that can be hoped for is another mish-mash of small cuts, budget gimmicks and excuses — just like the debt ceiling plan itself.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. The fanciful notion that a super committee or a simple committee or any committee would be better positioned to achieve a grand bargain than the parties to the debt ceiling negotiations has always been nonsensical.

The challenge confronting decision makers in Washington is the same now as it was when the super charade, er ... committee, was first birthed — reduce the deficit.

Republican demands before the super committee are the same now as they were during the debt ceiling negotiation — reform entitlements and cut discretionary spending. Democratic demands are the same now as then too — raise taxes.

And the impasse between Republicans and Democrats looks just the same. The whole thing is circular, and exasperating. Because a grand bargain is do-able, if only either side could mount the courage.

When the federal government (led by Colorado’s own Ken Salazar) couldn’t find a way to choke off the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the popular refrain in the public and press became: Plug the damn hole.

A similar charge to the super committee, Congress and the president seems appropriate now: Cut the damn deal.

Electoral college at the midterm: One year before voters decide whether to give Barack Obama another term, there are signs of hope for Republicans. But hope shouldn’t be confused with euphoria.

A USA Today poll released earlier this week underscored both the promise and the struggle that awaits those aspiring to end the presidency of Barack Obama. The poll showed that GOP front-runner Mitt Romney is statistically tied with Obama in 12 swing states. Herman Cain and Rick Perry, both of whom have encountered big bumps on the presidential campaign trail of late, were statistically tied or within striking distance in each of the 12-key states as well.

What makes the poll most heart-warming for red-blooded right-wingers is that all 12 states, including big battlegrounds like Florida, Ohio and our own Colorado, are states that Obama claimed in 2008. That means Obama has got a whole lot of territory to defend in order to get the needed 270 electoral votes required to earn four more years.

But the fact that the race is in a virtual tie in all of these states, even amid a disastrous economy and much evidence that Obama has been an awful president, should give pause to Republicans. Obama will, we know, have the treasure trove of resources needed to wage electoral war in each of these states where he’s now tied. That means conservatives would do well to keep the bubbly on ice and get their walking shoes out. There is still much work to do.

Rick Perry is toast: And speaking of the presidency, Rick Perry all but ensured he has no shot at winning it with his embarrassing, humiliating, uncomfortably awful answer Wednesday to a question about which federal departments he’d eliminate.

A few weeks back, I mused about conservatives’ overwhelming desire for a nominee with the intellectual mojo to take on both Obama and turn the ship of state once the election is over and done. Gov. Perry, it is fast becoming apparent, is not that man. If there were any doubt about that before his discombobulated, bumbling debate performance Wednesday, there is no more.

Josh Penry is a former Colorado Senate minority leader and a graduate of Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.


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