Throughout his first term, Obama will be constantly pushing truly massive new spending projects. More banking bailouts, the auto bailout, bailouts for other industries, socialized medicine, pork ridden budgets, global warming funds -- it goes on and on. If Republicans oppose those very same massive spending projects, they can make that the core of their campaign in 2010.
Now, some people would say that won't work for three reasons:
1) The American people don't care about pork projects. It is true that few representatives are ever going to lose a state or a district because they voted for too much spending.
But, and this a big but -- what's good for a particular politician on the micro level can be extremely damaging for a political party on a macro level if the behavior spreads.
Put another way, people don't mind when THEIR representative brings home a "Bridge to Nowhere," but boy do they hate the idea of OTHER PEOPLE benefiting from government largesse.
Moreover, with the Democrats in charge, these big spending bills will inevitably be incredibly wasteful and full of corrupt "one hand washes the other" spending. That sort of obscene corruption and grotesque back scratching certainly isn't going to be what most Americans thought Barack meant when he said he was going to "change the way Washington works" and they will be offended by it.
2) The Republicans have no credibility on deficit spending after the Bush years. The GOP's reputation in this area certainly took a huge, much deserved hit during the Bush years.
However, A) Obama is going to be the biggest spending President in American history by far and B) People are going to pay a lot more attention to what happens in 2009 and 2010 than what happened between 2001-2008. If the GOP continues to oppose these wasteful bills as the Democrats continue to support them, the American people will give credit where credit is due for fiscal conservatism. Do keep in mind though, even if the GOP turns into a party-full of Jim DeMints and John Shadeggs, it will take several months for it to fully sink in with the American public after the poor performance of the Bush years.
3) If the American people really cared about spending, they wouldn't have sided so heavily with the Dems in 2008. The Republicans talked a lot about cutting spending and small government issues throughout the Bush years, but they didn't walk the walk. You can't credibly run as a small government, deficit-cutting party when the government expands under your watch and spending explodes.
Granted, the Democrats were even worse, but you can only say, "We're the lesser of two evils" for so long before the voters decide to test that theory. Test it they did in 2008 and I suspect that quite a few of them are already, less than a month into the Obama administration, regretting their decisions.
In addition, there are three other things worth noting:
4) The American people are deeply suspicious of radical change, particularly if it's not bipartisan. As Barack Obama himself has said, he intends to run "trillion-dollar deficits for years to come." That is a radical and dangerous change for our nation. In fact, that sort of spending could literally become a negative turning point that our country's economy may never truly recover from.
In other words, unless we change course, we will see a day in this country when checks from the federal government won't be worth the paper they're written on and people will need wheelbarrows full of money to buy a loaf of bread. That's the future Barack Obama is creating for our children and if Republicans continue to raise the alarm about this, it will absolutely scare the American people to death -- and with good reason. There are many nations that have been bankrupted by irresponsible government policies and Barack Obama is following in their footsteps.
5) People can understand the problem with deficit spending. There are a lot of political issues the American people have trouble fully wrapping their heads around, but deficit spending is not one of them. Every American understands what it means to operate within a budget and the consequences of running up big bills that you can't pay. They understand that they have to live within their means and the government should as well.
Typically, this issue tends to be potent with the GOP base, but not as much so with the American public. However, with Barack Obama running deficits so large that they would make a Premier of the Soviet Union blanch, the problem will soon be far too big for even the apparatchiks in the mainstream media to deny.
6) With each new spending project, public support for more spending is going to drop further. We've already had TARP, the Big 3 bailout, and now we've passed a stimulus -- and the American people are already getting very, very tired of it. From Rasmussen Reports,
While the Obama Administration is pledging up to $2.5 trillion in support for the troubled U.S. financial system, 56% of Americans oppose giving bankers any additional government money or any guarantees backed by the government.
Twenty percent (20%) support such assistance, and 24% are not sure...
...Fifty-nine percent (59%) say they oppose the $700-billion bank bailout plan that was proposed by the Bush Administration and approved by Congress early last October after the highly publicized failure of Lehman Brothers brought Wall Street's growing problems home to Main Street. Half of that money is being channeled into the new bailout plan.
Twenty percent (20%) say the first bailout plan was a good idea, and 21% are undecided.
The new numbers represent a jump in opposition to the first plan. Forty-five percent (45%) opposed it at the time it was passed, while 30% supported it. A sizable majority expected Wall Street to benefit more than taxpayers from the bailout, but those numbers also are higher now.
The plurality of Americans (46%) say the earlier bailout plan has had no impact on the U.S. economy. Thirty-six percent (36%) think it has made things worse, while just nine percent (9%) say it has helped the economy.
Note that not only do Americans strongly oppose any further bank bailouts, they've become considerably more opposed to the original TARP plan. This is not going to be an exception to the rule; it will be a trend.
That means the Democrats have a choice: continue to compulsively push ever more unpopular spending programs or give up on handing out goodies, which is about 75% of the party's appeal. The smart money would be on the former, not the latter, but either way it's good for the Republican Party.
Summary: We don't know how the economy is going to look in 2010, what all the key issues of the election will be, how popular Obama will be, how well the GOP will work together over the next two years or a number of other things.
However, it has already become very apparent that if the GOP can hold the line on spending, it will not only fire up our base and be good for the country, it will give us an enormous stick with which to savagely beat the Democrats in the 2010 elections.