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From Heading Right

Let not your heart be troubled, the Potomac Two Step has but begun with Preisdent Barack Obama.   On Tuesday night before a joint session of the United States Congress, the President put forward his vision for ending America’s economic crisis.  In March 2006, the national debt ceiling was raised from $8.2 Trillion to $9 Trillion.  Last Autumn, the debt ceiling was raised to $10 Trillion.  Last Friday, when President Obama signed the Stimulus bill – he put his signature on a bill that further raised the total federal deficit to $12.1 Trillion.  More than three trillion dollars in new debt, without interest.  And yet, President Obama proclaims he does not believe in bigger government.

“Not because I believe in bigger government — I don’t,” Obama said. “Not because I’m not mindful of the massive debt we’ve inherited — I am. I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and cost more hardships.”

Let’s put this debt in context.  The folks at NPR, while critiqueing the Bush Admininstration’s budget in 2006 posted this:

When President Bush took office five years ago, the national debt was at $5.6 trillion; since then, big budget surpluses have collapsed into huge deficits, and the debt has shot up nearly 50 percent.

Few lawmakers, though, wish to be on record as authorizing more debt — the House goes so far as to hike the limit automatically. And Senate Democrats are telling their Republican counterparts not to expect any help from them, particularly in an election year.

If any amendments are attached to the Senate’s debt measure, the House would be forced to vote on raising the limit — the last thing many lawmakers seeking re-election want to be on the record as doing.

 So let’s be clear.  During President Bush’s eight years in office – six with a GOP Majority on Capitol Hill, and the final two with Democrats led by Speaker Pelosi & Majority Leader Reid – the total Federal Deficit was raised a total of $3.4 Trillion.  And upon election, Barack Obama encourage the debt ceiling to be raised $3.1 Trillion.  The man has been in office for barely a month.  No major terrorist attacks, no new wars.  But lots of hope, change, and promises to keep.

Enter The Party of No.  Republican Whip Eric Cantor, being feted as this generation’s Newt Gingrich is leading the charge for fiscal accountability.  And Obama knows it, at his “Summit for Fiscal Responsibility” the President tried to wield his power, charm, and high station – but also recognized his chief rival.  “I’m going to keep on talking to Eric Cantor.  Some day, sooner or later, he is going to say: Boy, Obama had a good idea.” and amid the laughter, he continued, “It’s going to happen. You watch, you watch.”

Cantor is the lone Jewish Republican in the US House, he’s a popular figure in Virginia’s 7th District… and was touted as a possible running mate for John McCain last year.  Cantor’s magic however, is less about star power (though he definitely possesses the heart-warming Clark Kent looks) and more about performance. 

Cantor delivers for the GOP is much the same way that Obama has delivered for Democrats.  Obama was very successful in 2008, especially in the Democratic primary.  He worked the hard left wing base – the Code Pink folks claimed to have found their “Dear Leader,” and were thrilled that co-Founder Jodie Evans was one of Obama’s biggest bundlers of campaign cash.  Obama brought aboard Blue Dogs and Yellow Dogs and all the other “dogs” in the Democratic Party. (Apparently, the DNC is following the American Idol model for naming coalitions, thx Randy Jackson!)  Once he nailed down the Left, Obama got the center-left – and after running the Delegate math, he cleaned Hillary Clinton’s clock.

The thing about Cantor: NUANCE.  He has an air of natural authority, possesses a wonky streak that impresses ideological conservatives and center-right Republicans alike, is a wildly successful fundraiser for himself – and more importantly his colleagues – and the secret weapon?  A national network that he’s quietly built, no Greek columns.  No fanfare.  No fireworks.  Just old fashioned retail politics.

And Cantor, quite rightly, acknowledges the common ground he may share with Obama on fiscal responsibility.  He also notes, deftly, that Obama’s rhetoric – and the actions of Speaker Pelosi, House Democrats, and Senate Majority Leader Reid are at odds with the promises Obama made to the American People.  While Cantor is Obama’s Chief partisan rival… the two men could force the hands of overspending Democrats:

In a deft piece of political positioning, Cantor and his allies are arguing that if Obama intends to keep his word on bringing a new tone to governing, he’s going to have to make that clear to his fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill.

That leaves Republicans standing up primarily against widely unpopular congressional leaders, as opposed to the still-popular president.

“Perhaps the White House may not say this, but they missed an opportunity to intervene early with Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi to get her to do things differently [in the stimulus bill],” Cantor said. “This bill did not meet his standard.”

He said it falls to the president to change the way business is conducted in Congress: “He is obviously a mighty persuasive figure. He has a lot of political capital, and I believe his heart is in the right place.”

The budget battles have but begun.  The new $400+ Billion Omnibus bill, on the heels of the $787 Billion stimulus are Obama’s first steps.  Politics 101 dictates that from the moment you are sworn-in as President, until the moment you leave — everything is your fault.  You break it, you own it.  Doesn’t matter if you really broke it or not.  That is the way 330 Million Americans view the presidency.  Politics can be an unforgiving business.

So here’s the question, will it be Speaker Cantor? Or will he challenge Obama in 2012, and become President Cantor?  Vote in the AOL Hot Seat poll HERE.

—Media Lizzy