By MARSHA MERCER
That was quick. Republican euphoria over Virginia’s election results and what they may portend for 2022 began to evaporate in less than a week.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu dashed the hopes of fellow Republicans Tuesday by saying he would not run for the Senate. Instead, he will seek a fourth two-year term as governor, which he is expected to win handily.
“My responsibility is not to the gridlock and politics of Washington. It’s to the citizens of New Hampshire. And I’d rather push myself 120 miles an hour delivering wins for New Hampshire than to slow down and end up on Capitol Hill debating partisan politics without results,” Sununu told reporters.
Republicans had counted on Sununu to run against incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan, one of the weakest Senate Democrats seeking re-election in the midterm elections. Former Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire has also indicated she won’t run, leaving the New Hampshire GOP with lower tier candidates, so far.
Every Senate seat is crucial as both parties seek to break the 50-50 tie in their direction. Vice President Kamala Harris casts tie-breaking votes. Sununu’s decision was a blow to Republicans, who were blindsided by the announcement. Party leaders found out the same way everyone else did – on the news.
You can’t blame Sununu for saying, thanks but no thanks, even if he did it artlessly. Politics in Washington could hardly be nastier. Republican House members who vote “wrong” in the eyes of extremists – that is, in a bipartisan manner – now endure death threats.
One wonders why anyone who wants to be constructive – rather than a demagogue -- would take on the capital’s toxic atmosphere, although we must be thankful for those who do.
At the same time, Democrats are still smarting from the Virginia election debacle -- and they can’t catch a break. They want to celebrate the roughly $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill the House passed Nov. 5 and President Joe Biden is scheduled to sign Monday.
But Biden saw his victory lap derailed Wednesday by scary inflation numbers. The Consumer Price Index rose 6.2% last month from a year ago and is at its highest level in more than three decades.
Taming inflation is now a top priority for the White House, though there’s little a president can really do. Gerald Ford’s Whip Inflation Now button and Jimmy Carter’s cardigan sweater led to their one-term presidencies.
“Everything from a gallon of gas to a loaf of bread costs more, and it’s worrisome even though wages are going up,” Biden said Wednesday in Baltimore. “We still face challenges, and we have to tackle them.”
The spike in inflation threatens his $1.85 trillion social safety net and climate change reconciliation bill in the Senate, where Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and others worry it will feed inflationary pressures. White House and independent economists dispute that assessment.
“By all accounts, the threat posed by record inflation to the American people is not `transitory’ and is instead getting worse. From the grocery store to the gas pump, Americans know the inflation tax is real and DC can no longer ignore the economic pain Americans feel every day,” Manchin, of West Virginia, tweeted.
But Manchin, who holds a knife over Biden’s reconciliation package, has been all over Twitter touting the goodies the infrastructure bill will bring his state – “nearly $6 BILLION in infrastructure funding over the next decade.”
Note the time element: The money will come over 10 years. Democrats worry voters won’t see enough new jobs and economic growth by Election Day 2022.
Yet the bill was a bipartisan victory in a Congress where few occur. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was one of 19 Republicans who voted in favor in August. He recently called it a “godsend” for his home state of Kentucky.
Incredibly, House Republican leaders threaten to punish the 13 Republican members there who dared to vote for that same bill by stripping them of their committee assignments.
The threat prompted Biden to renew his call for more civility and cooperation in politics.
“I know I get in trouble when I talk about” bipartisanship, he said Tuesday. “As people say, why the devil would I like any Republicans? Well, it’s important. If we don’t generate consensus in America, we’re in trouble.”
©2021 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.