There are five minutes left in the game. Your team leads by less than a touchdown. Do you get conservative, go with handoffs into the line and hope your defense can come through? Or do you take a few risks and try to run out the clock without ever giving the other team the ball back?
Nine months from Election Day 2014, that’s basically the question Republicans are facing. They have a lead, so to speak. And they have to figure out how to close out the victory without making mistakes that give away the game.
They could run the ball into the line – keep the heat on Obamacare, make Democrats defend their votes and the program’s multiple simultaneous calamities. Or they could try to take a few chances, work to move some legislation that addresses concerns the American people have and show they would be ready to govern with fresh ideas from Day One.
It’s not an easy question. The all-slam-Obamacare-all-the-time strategy is working, up to a point. President Obama’s poll numbers are at all-time lows. Candidates are shunning him on the campaign trail and trying to distance themselves from his signature legislation. Democrats have all but given up on retaking the majority in the House of Representatives and are concentrating their resources on defending five vulnerable incumbents in the Senate and holding the open seats in Iowa and Michigan. Plus, as Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., an ally of Speaker John Boehner, said the other day, “In the House, we’ve got 30 guys who don’t want to support anything, ever, unless it balances the budget next year.”
But there is reason to believe Republicans are not yet in position to run out the clock – or, more accurately, that they stand to forego the chance to take over the Senate if they don’t come up with something besides flogging Obamacare between now and November.