Donald Lambro

Yeah, like after the 2010 election, when his party got a shellacking in Congress, the economy showed no signs of improvement, and he reluctantly agreed to a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts.

No one can predict what will happen in November, but the likely parameters of the election are beginning to come into sharper focus.

Despite polls showing that Congress' approval rating has sunk to a record low of 10 percent, surveys also show a strong majority of voters approve of their own representative and senators. With the House firmly in the grip of the Republicans, by 242 to 192 with one vacancy, it appears highly unlikely the GOP will lose control in November.

The Democrats' Senate majority is much more tenuous. Republicans need three more seats to effectively take control if they win the White House, with the vice president breaking tie votes. But if Obama wins a second term, the GOP would need just four more seats, which top forecasters say is easily within their reach.

"With five Democratic seats at greatest risk -- Nebraska, North Dakota, Missouri, Montana and Virginia -- and another five -- New Mexico, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin and Hawaii -- the 2012 Senate landscape is stacked in the Republicans' favor," says Stuart Rothenberg in his latest race-by-race analysis.

What this means is that Republicans will be in control of Congress, and if Obama were to win a second term -- which very much depends on who the GOP nominee is -- he can kiss any tax increases goodbye.

In that situation, with the Republicans ruling Capitol Hill, he will likely be sent legislation in January to make the tax cuts permanent, with additional tax reforms to boost growth and new job creation. The political pressure on him would be intense to sign the bill to get the economy going again.

But what if he loses the election and refuses to extend the Bush tax cuts in a bitter battle in the divided lame-duck Congress, allowing them to expire? That seems unlikely because he would be hurting the very segment of the electorate he says he most wants to protect: the middle class.

In that situation, even if he held his ground this time and let the tax cuts die, it would be a futile act of political retribution that would gain him nothing but public enmity.

The Republican majority would send legislation to the new president soon after the new Congress was sworn in and restore the tax cuts retroactively, with every assurance it would be immediately signed into law.

But for now, the political argument that Obama's failed policies have allowed this high unemployment and painfully slow recovery that has dragged on far longer than necessary is a powerful one.

Much of the investment doubts throughout the economy have been due to chronic uncertainty within the business community that feared making long-term expansion plans, not knowing whether the temporary tax rates would continue or be raised in any succeeding year. The absence of any certainty in tax policy has helped produce the anemic, high-unemployment economy we have now.

The Christian Science Monitor said the "standard of living for Americans has fallen longer and more steeply over the past three years than at any time since the U.S. government began recording it five decades ago."

The Obama economy, now in its fourth year, has little to show except higher poverty, record bankruptcies, mounting foreclosures, and more than $5 trillion in additional debt on the backs of generations to come.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.