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SEASON OF UNREASON

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham summed up the problem that the Republican Party found itself in last week as the White House and Congress tried to figure out a way to raise the nation's debt ceiling before economic Armageddon arrives on Aug. 2.

"Our problem is, we made a big deal about this for three months," Graham told The New York Times. "How many Republicans have been on TV saying, 'I am not going to raise the debt limit'? We have no one to blame but ourselves."

The White House has offered a variety of compromises, including a $4 trillion, 10-year deal that had roughly $3 trillion in cuts combined with a trillion bucks in new revenue through tax reforms.

For a rational GOP, this would have been a great deal: They would have gotten major concessions from the Democrats on the topic of entitlement reform, along with a major deficit reduction.

However, the GOP has rejected any deal that includes increasing any revenue, which shows us that they care a lot more about keeping taxes low for corporations and the richest people in the country than they care about reducing the deficit.

But as it turns out, corporations and the richest people in the country have an interest in keeping the economy from collapsing, so they have been quietly leaning on the whatever's left of the responsible leaders of the GOP to make some kind of deal.

That's why Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has cooked up his looney-tunes scheme to give up all GOP leverage over the debt ceiling and let the Democrats keep on spending, as long as Republicans can vote to disapprove of it.

Our senior senator, John McCain, appears to have awakened to the political danger of letting the nation crash against the debt limit. If the markets get spooked and suffer from some kind of collapse, President Barack Obama will certainly take a big chunk of the blame—but as McCain saw when Newt Gingrich pushed a government shutdown in 1995, voters also may end up blaming the Republicans for not making a deal.

"I really hope our Republican base can understand that we have not lost our zeal or dedication to spending cuts, but we are aware of the consequences of not having a Plan B in case all else fails," McCain told the GOP-friendly National Journal last week as he talked up McConnell's plan.

"There are some on the right who are saying this is a sellout, this is a copout; they have been very creative in their descriptions," McCain said.

We'd have to say that McConnell seems to have been creative in coming up with this plan.

The Skinny can certainly follow the political curves of the McConnell proposal: The GOP lawmakers, to keep the economy from collapsing, let Obama borrow as much as he wants, while they vote to say they don't like the borrowing. GOP leaders get to blame Obama for the nation's economic troubles—while surrendering any power to do anything but carp about it.

But it's hard to argue that the McConnell plan isn't a sellout of the Tea Party, which would (correctly) see the GOP's surrender as just another Washington trick and a total betrayal.

Let's face it: A big part of the problem stems from Republican leaders encouraging their base to believe six impossible things before breakfast. McCain has said he won't go along with the Grand Bargain that would cut $4 trillion from the deficit, because he now considers the Bush tax cuts sacrosanct.

But those Bush tax cuts that McCain is fighting to protect are the same tax cuts that he didn't support in 2001, because he believed they would lead to higher deficits. McCain was completely right about that: The Bush tax cuts set the stage for an exploding deficit and one of the worst economies in our nation's history.

But now that McCain is no longer a maverick (if indeed he ever was), he cares more about obeying Grover Norquist than he cares about reducing the deficit.

And sadly enough, that makes him a typical Republican.


MAYORAL VACUUM

It appears someone out there isn't too excited about Rick Grinnell's plan to try to become a Republican candidate for mayor as a write-in option in the Aug. 30 primary.

Since the two GOP candidates who filed to run for mayor—Ron Asta and Shaun McClusky—failed to get enough signatures to make the ballot, the Republican Party is without a candidate. If Grinnell, who formally registered as a write-in candidate last week, can get at least 1,060 write-in votes, his name would appear on the November ballot.

It's important to the Republican Party to have a mayoral candidate, because right now, they only have two candidates in the city election, running for the City Council in Ward 2 and Ward 4. Unless they get a third candidate into the mix, it won't be legal for the party to do slate pieces on TV and in the mail to help Republican Tyler Vogt in his campaign against Democratic Councilwoman Shirley Scott, and Republican Jennifer Rawson in her campaign against Democratic Councilman Paul Cunningham.

Now comes a recent robo-poll that is asking Tucson voters about their attitudes regarding Democratic mayoral candidate Jonathan Rothschild.

But here's where it gets interesting: It's also asking what voters think of Republican Jonathan Paton, a former state lawmaker who lost a GOP congressional primary last year to Jesse Kelly, who would go on to lose to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The poll—which was conducted via a recording that asked respondents to press buttons expressing their preferences—made the standard inquiry into the political leanings of respondents, including a question regarding whether they considered themselves members of the Tea Party.

It also asked if voters were considering voting for Green Party candidate Mary DeCamp, in order to get an idea of what kind of spoiler role a Green could play this year.

Grinnell's name never came up in the poll.

Paton didn't return a phone call, but Grinnell says he's talked to Paton, and Paton told him he wasn't interested in getting into the race.

But it sure sounds like someone out there—perhaps a well-heeled auto dealer—would like to get Paton into the mix to prevent Rothschild from simply walking into the mayor's office without a challenge.

Paton is one of the few Republican politicians who could make a respectable run, although the odds are stacked against him, because Democrats outnumber Republicans by such a wide margin.

On the other hand, the GOP has proven time and again in city races that they can get the eastside voters out, while Democrats have a tough time rallying the southside and westside troops in off-year city elections.

The formula for GOP success, however, has been to run candidates as moderates, not as conservative firebrands. Mayor Bob Walkup has drifted so far to the left since his election 12 years ago that GOP conservatives are probably more contemptuous of him than most Democrats are.

Paton, meanwhile, has been charging hard to the right, especially since he left the Legislature to run for Congress. Does that kind of Republican sell in the city limits?

There's only one way to find out ...

More by Jim Nintzel

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