Donald Lambro

By 2011, the third year of Obama's presidency, federal spending has soared to nearly $4 trillion and the yearly deficit has skyrocketed to $1.6 trillion. "That means 40 percent of what Washington spends is borrowed," says Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner.

The government's debt has dangerously ballooned to more than $14 trillion or nearly the sum total of our gross domestic product, or all of the goods and services we produce. An economic analysis by Standard and Poors warns that the United States could lose its AAA bond rating as a result.

Americans correctly see the poor fiscal health of our government as part and parcel of our economy's troubles. The "lack of resolve to deal with federal budget woes is curbing businesses appetite for risk taking and hiring," says University of Maryland economist Peter Morici.

More than any other political issue, Americans tend to vote first and foremost on the economy. Obama won on that issue in 2008, but he could lose on that same issue if there isn't an improvement on the jobs front as he heads toward 2012. But that seems unlikely under his anti-growth policies and the specter of the Bush tax cuts expiring at the end of next year that could keep employers from hiring now.

Who could beat Obama?

The Republican presidential bench is still coming together, though slowly, in the belief that Americans are turned off by long, two-year election cycles. The leader of the pack is still former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who won 11 Republican presidential primaries in 2008 and came in second in 11 others. Romney, a venture capital business leader who helped a number of start-up companies before entering politics, has made it clear that the major issue of our time is the economy and that he knows how to fix it.

Other governors or former governors make up the first tier of the GOP's potential lineup, including Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, John Huntsman, Jr., of Utah, and possibly Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. All of them know how to cut spending and balance a budget, and all have turned their states' economies around.

There are other GOP contenders, but this is a time when I think the voters will be looking for someone with proven executive experience who knows how to squeeze the fat out of government and create a climate for economic expansion and job creation. Let the games begin.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.