Michelle Cottle, a member of the NY Times' editorial board doesn't have much faith in Joe Manchin coming to the rescue of the Democratic Party before the midterms by letting them pass any of Biden's popular agenda. Not any more than I do but she has any idea.
Remember when I suggested Biden could make a deal with Lisa Murkowski? Murkowski is hated by the Señor Trumpanzee. who will do anything to beat her. Murkowski responded to his plans by having her allies in the state legislature change the way candidates in Alaska are nominated and elected-- a jungle primary and a ranked choice runoff. As long as there's not a strong Democratic contender, Murkowski's victory is assured. Biden could easily make that happen. Progressive Democratic state Senator Elvi Gray-Jackson, who represents downtown Anchorage, is waiting in the wings. If she runs Murkowski will have a much harder time winning reelection against Trumpist crackpot Kelly "there's a crazy is aisle 3" Tshibaka.
Cottle thinks working with Romney is a better idea than with Manchin (who, by the way, endorsed Murkowski, not even interested in known whether there will be a Democrat running or not). I don't think she even mentioned Sinema who, if anything, is even worse than Manchin. Where Cottle goes wrong is by imagining that Romney has the clout to bring 9 other Republicans to the party with him to save a part of Biden's legislative agenda. That's never going to happen. Romney might be able to bring 3 votes (his own included) or on the best day ever 4 or 5. But 10? Nope. But Biden + Collins and/or Murkowski... that would make up for Manchin's and Sinema's corporate-paid-for blockade of reconciliation. Cottle wrote that "Now any relief bill will need to clear a 60-vote threshold and thus require significant Republican support." I disagree. Even Cottle admits that "the prospects for success [for her idea] remain shaky."
What Romney could deliver is a weak bipartisan package for COVID relief, which is enough for Cottle... and certainly not enough to save the Democrats' ass for the midterms. She's a big Romney fan. She like that Trump dubbed him a "Super RINO" She wrote that "Going forward, Democratic leaders should consider drawing Romney into the center of the action more often, taking some of the heat-- and light-- off Mr. Manchin whenever possible." Nancy Ohanian drew picture of that the other day:
Trying to corral Manchin on policy votes (versus, say, judicial nominations) has proved an extended exercise in teeth-grinding, hair-pulling frustration-- not to mention public humiliation for the president. (Look! The guy can’t even get his own team members in line!) No Republican is going to aid the Democrats very often. But trying to find sporadic, narrow patches of common ground with Romney could hardly prove less productive in terms of getting stuff done. And politically speaking, it could be considerably more expedient.
The political incentives for Manchin and Romney are different. By and large, it is not in Manchin’s interest to help Democrats achieve their legislative dreams-- whatever the policy particulars. The voters of West Virginia love Donald Trump more than his own daddy did, and Manchin clings to office by aggressively frustrating his fellow Democrats. That is his brand. His superpower. The moment he stops, he’s on the fast track to being dumped for a MAGA-head.
Romney’s situation is slightly more nuanced. Utah is a blood-red state but not a wildly Trumpy one. Plenty of Republican voters there remain skeptical of Trump’s vulgar charms. In the Senate, Romney has worked to build his brand as a reasonable elder statesman rather than as a MAGA sycophant-- a position with renewed appeal for non-wingers and swing voters still recovering from Trump fatigue. His occasional heresies put Romney at risk of a primary challenge from the right if he runs for re-election in 2024, but they have not destroyed him back home the way they could have in some conservative enclaves.
It helps that Romney, the 2012 G.O.P. presidential nominee, has a national stature enjoyed by few in his party. He has as much potential as anyone to serve as a non-Trumpy power center-- to remind Republicans that they don’t have to be known as the party of revanchists, racists and conspiracy theorists. There is no way he will ever be Trumpy enough to win the hearts of MAGA zealots. (Those impeachment votes will never be forgiven. Ever.) The way for him to distinguish himself in today’s Republican Party is to double down on modeling civility, pragmatism and sanity.
Am I naïve enough to think that Romney would ever throw himself into helping Democrats pass scads of meaty bills? Of course not. The guy isn’t politically suicidal-- or progressive. We are talking about a game of inches: extending a child tax credit of sorts here, reforming the Electoral Count Act there, that sort of targeted progress.
Besides, at the risk of coming across as purely cynical, let’s say Romney becomes a frequent negotiating partner for Democrats but ultimately helps pass few if any bills. Biden can at least blame the opposition for foot-dragging rather than Manchin, a member of his own team. By seeking and failing to cut a deal with Romney and the sprinkling of other moderate Republicans who talk a big bipartisan game, Biden can stress that he tried his darnedest to fulfill his vow to bridge the partisan gulf. By contrast, when Manchin refuses to play ball, as he so often does, it makes Biden look weak and leaves Democrats fielding awkward questions about their lack of unity.
So maybe it’s time to stop lavishing so much attention on Manchin-- to let him become just one more vote that Democrats aren’t counting on for policy help. At the same time, Romney should be pressed to show just how willing he is to risk doing what is good for his constituents-- and the nation.
The idea may sound nuts. But at least it’s a different kind of insanity.
Maybe what Democrats need to do is stop recruiting and nominating garbage candidates like Tim Ryan, Val Demings, Conor Lamb, Cheri Beasley, Abby Finkenauer... that kind of thing... more Sinemas, more Manchins. I mean the party of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt shouldn't have to depend on trash like Manchin and Sinema, let alone Mitt Romney. Who'd be more likely to follow Bernie's lead on this-- Romney or Manchin/Sinema? How about Biden?