As he seeks reelection to Congress, Oklahoma’s Tom Cole is optimistic for Republican chances to win the presidency, U.S. Senate and U.S. House
Published: April 17th, 2012
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, seeking reelection in the Fourth Congress District of Oklahoma, has what can be accurately deemed a “somewhat optimistic” view of progress made in Congress over the past two years, since Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives. He leavens that, however, with an explicit belief that Republicans must regain the Senate and the presidency to allow national progress.
In an interview With CapitolBeatOK at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Cole reflected:
“ We’ve had three great compromises that I give Republicans a lot of credit for.
The first was extending the Bush tax cuts in December of 2010. We had to extend unemployment benefits and have a payroll tax deduction – but we extended those.
“Second, of course, we managed to cut spending in the context of the budget deal in April of 2011. We didn’t shut down the government and got some significant spending cuts.
“Finally, the debt ceiling deal. We got a $2.2 trillion long-term cut in spending. First time that’s happened in American history. On top of that, three free trade deals, and a couple of other significant jobs bills.”
Cole stressed he’s not looking through the equivalent rose-colored glasses. He continued:
“The big questions are really going to be decided … in November. If we can get the Ryan budget, if we can begin to deal with our long-term debt, if we can actually pass some of the economic legislation not only through the House but through the Senate, we could turn the country around.
“That’s going to take a Republican president, and that’s going to take a Republican Senate.
“I think in the elections, we’re going to hold the House of Representatives, no question. No president running for reelection has changed control of a chamber since 1948.
“If we win the presidency, we’ll certainly win the Senate. We have three sure pick-ups, and about a half dozen others that could go either way. We have a couple of seats in danger, Massachusetts and Maine, but on balance we could win the Senate.
“The presidential race is going to be exceptionally close. I always remind people that the president had perfect conditions, and no record to run on in 2008. This time around, he’s got a record of failure.
“He said that unemployment would never get above 8 percent, but it’s never gotten below. He said he would cut the budget deficit in half; it’s bigger than it was his first year. He said that he would get the economy moving again, but nobody really believes we really are.
“So, I think we can hold him to account. Nobody that didn’t vote for him last time has changed their minds. This isn’t like Ronald Reagan, who had people against him and then after they had seen him govern, changed their direction.
“I think all the 170 electoral votes and 46 percent of the popular vote that was against the president last time still are. There are a lot of states he carried last time – Indiana, North Carolina, for instance – and there is no way he’ll carry them this time.
Other states are trending our way – Florida, Ohio, Virginia. So, I expect this to be a down to the wire election.”
An historian before he became a leading political consultant and a member of Congress in 2002, Cole believes, “It’s a big election, like 1980. This is one where the country basically decides whether it wants a government-centered, almost entitlement-centered economy going forward — or if it wants to go back to proven principles of the free enterprise system, with smaller government, less spending and strong defense.”
Concerning the election, he believes it will be close. Some weeks ago, analyst Dick Morris said he believed the popular vote percentage breakdown will run around 53-47, with the advance to Republicans.
Cole agrees in large measure, saying, “That’s very reasonable. I think it’s a 51-49 type race. I really do. I think we’ll be up late on election night. If you can tell me what the economy looks like 90 days out, I can probably get a pretty good idea of the winner.
“I think people know the country can do better than it’s done the last four years. I think the president is going to have to wage a very negative campaign. He’s going to have to try to destroy his opponent, most likely Mitt Romney.
“People will see through that, in the end. I think people will see through that, in the end. They will opt for optimism. I think we’re actually the optimistic party, and not the president.”