With Cruz, they’d lose

via The Economist (November 27, 2015)

Ted Cruz, a firebrand Republican, peddles a self-serving myth about presidential contests.

THE presidential candidate who has most harmed American politics this year is Donald Trump, a bully who has prospered by inciting rage. Yet from the narrower perspective of the Republican Party, the most dangerous candidate of the 2016 pack may just be Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who is rising in the polls by telling conservative activists a seductive but misleading story about how their party wins elections.

Since launching his presidential run, the 44-year-old Texan has built his campaign around a simple pitch: assuring the most conservative third of the Republican electorate, from born-again Christian voters to hardline members of the Tea Party, that they form a cruz controlnatural majority of the conservative movement, and indeed would decide general elections if they would only turn out and vote. In his telling, this stirring truth frightens a cowardly Republican establishment in Washington, which urges conservatives to run to the middle as “Democrats-lite”—whereupon, Mr Cruz argues, “We get whipped.” By way of proof, the first-term senator informs Republican crowds that in 2012, when the party nominated Mitt Romney, roughly half of all born-again Christian voters and millions of blue-collar conservatives stayed home.

New polls show Mr Cruz rising to second place behind Mr Trump in Iowa, which will hold the first contest of the presidential primary season on February 1st. Much of his surge is at the expense of Mr Trump’s fellow-outsider, the retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Dr Carson, a devout Christian whose memoirs are a staple for church book-clubs and home-school curriculums, led some Iowa surveys in October. But the doctor has been hurt by amateurish responses to the Paris terror attacks, including a breezy suggestion that a “great nation” like America should not be “afraid” to shoot down Russian planes over Syria, if need be.

Prayerful Republicans have won Iowa in the past and faded soon afterwards, it is true. But Mr Cruz sees openings. The 2016 presidential primary calendar is front-loaded with conservative, pious states, many in the South, allowing Cruz strategists to dream of swiftly dominating the “very conservative” lane of the race, while establishment rivals squabble among themselves. And as Mr Trump’s campaign has taken a more thuggish turn, Mr Cruz has gingerly distanced himself, saying that Republican candidates should remember that “tone matters”. What Mr Cruz will never do is criticise Mr Trump’s angriest supporters, for he hopes to inherit them one day. Instead he presents himself as angry America’s champion in Washington. He calls Barack Obama “an apologist for radical Islamic terrorism”, and has challenged the president to debate the wisdom of admitting Syrian Muslim refugees to America, a plan that Mr Cruz calls “lunacy”.

On November 20th Mr Cruz and six Republican rivals attended a presidential forum in Des Moines hosted by the Family Leader, a social-conservative outfit. A blizzard did not stop 1,200 locals from attending the hustings, which saw the politicians ranged around a mock Thanksgiving dinner table. The Family Leader’s boss, Bob Vander Plaats, set the tone by telling the gathering that “Satan was trying to disrupt our plans tonight” with the snowstorm and other wiles, but that this merely proved that the meeting would be “something special”. The crowd responded warmly to Mr Cruz, who offered stories about religion’s importance in his life, scorn for Mr Obama and exhortations for Christian conservatives to defy “Washington” and unite around a single candidate, or as he put it: “If the body of Christ rises up as one and votes our values, we can turn this country around.”

On paper, Mr Cruz makes an unlikely warrior against elitism. Before entering Texas politics, he was a debating champion at Princeton and a star student at Harvard Law School, later securing a high-flying post as a clerk at the Supreme Court. His wife, Heidi, worked at the National Security Council under President George W. Bush, then for Goldman Sachs, a bank. Supporters are unfussed. They praise Mr Cruz as a “fighter” who battled Democrats and also his own party leaders in Congress, notably when he forced a government shutdown in 2013 in what he called a bid to derail Obamacare. Fans do not care that other Republican senators angrily call the shutdown a doomed scheme whose purpose was to cast Mr Cruz as a grassroots hero. To the grassroots, being disliked in Washington is a character reference.

John Wacker, a manufacturing engineer, recalled being reluctant to put out campaign signs for Mr Romney in 2012 and for the Republican nominee in 2008, Senator John McCain. “They didn’t inspire me,” Mr Wacker explained, before praising Mr Cruz’s “charisma”. Several at the forum relished the prospect of the senator in a presidential debate with Hillary Clinton. “He’d eat her for lunch,” growled David, a campaign volunteer who declined to give his last name, citing his distrust of the press. As for Mr Vander Plaats, his organisation will endorse a candidate before Christmas. But he predicts in a telephone interview that Mrs Clinton is beatable “if we can choose someone who can inspire our base”, adding: “When we choose the mushy middle, we lose.”

Remember Barry Goldwater? He lost 44 states.

Alas for Cruz fans, the senator’s story about a Republican voter strike in 2012 does not add up. Turnout fell among lots of groups in 2012, some of them Obama-friendly. Moreover, turnout actually rose in some of the most closely-fought states. Voting rates also remained pretty healthy among white Protestant evangelicals, who made up one in four of all voters according to exit polls, though they account for only 19% of the population. Conservative Cruz fans may not care, for now. His fable about how elections are won flatters them, after all. As Mr Cruz beamed in Des Moines: “The men and women in this room scare the living daylights out of Washington.” But it is a fable: no Republican has won the White House without hefty moderate support. Mr Cruz is a clever and eloquent man. All the more reason to beware him.

Can Evangelicals Swing 2016 for GOP, as Cruz Says?

From the Wall Street Journal, by Gerald Seib

For months, Sen.  Ted Cruz has been hovering in the middle of the GOP presidential campaign pack, waiting for his moment—and honing his argument for why he has the strategy and appeal that can win for Republicans in 2016.

In a nutshell, the Cruz case is this: There is an army of silent evangelical voters out there, and I can mobilize them. The country has 90 million evangelical Christians, 54 million of whom stayed home on Election Day in 2012, he says. If I can get just 10 million of the no-shows to vote for me in 2016, we win.

Now that Mr. Cruz appears to be making his move—two recent polls show him rising to second place in Iowa, where evangelicals are strong—the question is: Does the math behind his argument hold up?

There is little doubt that a lack of enthusiasm among core voters hurt Republicans in 2012. Still, some in the party are dubious. Implicit in the Cruz case, they believe, is an assertion that mobilizing white evangelical voters is more important than the mission other Republicans put atop their agenda: doing better among the swelling ranks of minority voters, particularly Hispanics.

In a sense, then, the Cruz argument frames a strategic question for Republicans in 2016: Does victory lie in better mobilizing the existing GOP base, or in expanding that base to reflect changing demographics?

Mr. Cruz contends that Republicans lose when they nominate candidates—such as former Massachusetts Gov.  Mitt Romney—who fail to excite evangelicals at the core of today’s GOP. Some 30% of Americans are evangelical Christians, he argues, and the majority of them simply didn’t vote in 2012.

Certainly, low energy overall was a problem for Republicans when they failed to defeat a weakened President Barack  Obama in 2012. The under-enthusiasm was particularly noticeable among white voters, which seemed critical in at least one key state, Ohio. There, the white share of the vote declined to 79% from 83% in 2008, and Mr. Romney got fewer votes overall than  John McCain did four years earlier.

Mr. Cruz argues, in essence, that an energized based of evangelical voters, 76% of whom are white, would make up for such deficiencies, and he is hitting that math hard to mobilize evangelicals to his side. “Christians are staying home,” he told an audience at religiously conservative Bob Jones University in mid-November. “ Well mark my words, we will stay home no more.”

One shortcoming in the argument, though, is that almost half of those in the evangelical population that Mr. Cruz cites aren’t Republicans. An extensive survey of religion in America by the Pew Research Center showed that 28% of self-identified evangelical Christians are Democratic or lean Democratic, and 16% say they have no party leaning. Many evangelicals are African-Americans, a core Democratic audience unlikely to defect.

Meanwhile, many white evangelicals live in reliably red states that Republicans already are sure to win; a higher turnout there would simply run up a larger GOP margin. The broader question, then, is whether there are enough white evangelical conservatives to make a difference in the key states.

In a book titled “2016 and Beyond: How Republicans Can Elect a President in the New America,” GOP pollster  Whit Ayres—who works with Sen.  Marco Rubio’s campaign—writes that relying on finding “missing white voters” is “an excuse to avoid confronting the very real problems facing the Republican Party in a 21st century electorate.”

The number of white votes did drop by 4.2 million between the 2008 and 2012 elections, Mr. Ayres notes, and some of those were blue-collar Americans who didn’t warm to Mr. Romney.

But he also notes that if all those missing white voters had shown up and voted Republican, they still wouldn’t have saved Mr. Romney, who lost by 5 million votes.

The more important trend, he argues, is the steady decline of whites as a share of the electorate, and the steady rise of Hispanic voters. Whites as a share of the electorate fell to 72% in 2012 from 81% in 2000—and will fall further to 69% in 2016. Meanwhile, the share of minority voters will rise to 31% next year from 19% in 2000.

If the next Republican nominee doesn’t win more of the minority vote than the 17% Mr. Romney took, Mr. Ayres writes, he will have to win a hefty 65% of the white vote to prevail. That level hasn’t been hit since the  Ronald Reagan landslide of 1984.

Of course, the two arguments aren’t mutually exclusive: It’s possible to do better among white evangelicals and minorities. That’s a tall strategic order. Still, it may be that performing better among evangelicals is a necessary but not sufficient part of a GOP victory formula.

Love Purple, Live Gold

Les Miles is an evil genius. That’s what they said when he faked the field goal against Florida earlier this year, which led to a 35-28 thrilling victory over the eventual SEC East Champion.

les-milesThe Tigers can win the national championship – they have all the parts now that the QB is showing he can throw. That’s what they said when we sat 7-0 and 2nd in the first College Football Playoff standings.

Now three weeks later they say “off with his head” after a startlingly morose, three-game skid that included bad losses to bitter rival Alabama and historical rival Ole Miss.

The arrogance and sense of entitlement being shown by those who want to run Coach Miles out of town is embarrassing. This man has averaged ten wins a year, has won two SEC Championships, and has won a national championship.

Certainly, there is no question we’ve had issues the last three weeks. And while most of the attention has been focused on the offense, the defense has been abysmal as well, not to mention the porous special teams. We need to get better at all three phases of the game – this observation isn’t rocket science, it’s football and it’s fixable.

Current and former players are universally stating their unwavering support for Miles because they know who he is and what he can do for the team. Interestingly at least one potential future player players– five star recruit Dylan Moses – publicly expressed his support for Coach Miles as well.

Where did this arrogance and sense of entitlement come from anyway? LSU, a place I love with a passion, has not been a historically elite football powerhouse. In the 1950s and 1960s we made a good run with some top 5 rankings, a national championship and a Heisman Trophy winner. That was it though until Saban showed up in 2001.

The haters have thrown out numbers like these to bolster the case for a palace coup: he’s 2-7 against Ole Miss, Alabama and Arkansas in the past three years; 13-10 in the SEC the past three years; won 80 percent of his SEC games the first seven years and “only” 60 percent the last four years; and has five straight losses to Alabama and Coach Satan.

sabanWell, everyone knows that one can drum up numbers to support their argument. How about these numbers: in the five years Nick Saban coached LSU his record was 48-16. And if LSU beats Texas A&M this weekend, Miles’s record for the past five (difficult) years will be 49-15…

Here’s another fun numbers scenario: if a coach had the following records, should he too be fired after four straight years of declining numbers? 11-0, 10-1, 9-2, 10-1, 9-1-1, 11-0, 8-2-1, 8-3, 6-5, 6-5-1. Based on the ridiculous drumbeat from the past three weeks, LSU would certainly fire said coach. But his name was Bear Bryant, and Alabama didn’t fire him despite his losing to both Auburn and LSU the last two of those years. They stuck with their man and the next year he went 11-1 with many other successful seasons afterward.

I don’t use this illustration to compare Miles and Bryant – that would be absurd. I use this illustration to showcase what it takes to have a long-term, successful program. Alabama didn’t let emotion get in the way. Coach Bryant continued to recruit well, worked hard and made adjustments.

LSU should follow that model and do the same. We have a proven winner in Coach Miles, who runs a clean program, recruits top 10 talent (including the #1 class next year), engages not only the local community but indeed the entire state, and most certainly bleeds purple and gold. It’s time the LSU fan base, the Athletic Director, and the Board of Supervisors did too.

Trump’s America

Why the Donald is dangerous — The Economist

“THIS country is a hellhole. We are going down fast,” says Donald Trump. “We can’t do anything right. We’re a laughing-stock all over the world. The American dream is dead.” It is a dismal prospect, but fear not: a solution is at hand. “I went to the Wharton School of Business. I’m, like, a really smart person,” says Mr Trump. “It’s very possible”, he once boasted, “that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.”

When Mr Trump first announced that he was running for president, he was dismissed as a joke. A wheeler-dealer with lots of experience of reality TV but none whatsoever of elective office wants to be commander-in-chief? Surely, sophisticates scoffed, no one could want this erratic tycoon’s fingers anywhere near the nuclear button. But for weeks now he has led the polls for the Republican nomination, despite saying things that would have torpedoed any normal campaign. Americans are waking up to the possibility that a man whose hobby is naming things after himself might—conceivably—be the nominee of the party of Lincoln and Reagan. It is worth spelling out why that would be a terrible thing. Fortunately, the Donald’s own words provide a useful guide.

Mr Trump is not in thrall to the hobgoblins of consistency. On abortion, he has said both “I’m very pro-choice” and “I’m pro-life”. On guns, he has said “Look, there’s nothing I like better than nobody has them” and “[I] fully support and back up the Second Amendment” (which guarantees the right to bear arms). He used to say he wanted a single-payer health service. Now he is much vaguer, promising only to replace Obamacare with “something terrific”. In 2000 he sought the presidential nomination of the Reform Party. A decade ago he said “I probably identify more as Democrat.” Now he is a Republican.

Blowing his own Trumpet

In an interview this week (see article) The Economist asked Mr Trump why Republican voters seem willing to give him a pass on so many issues they normally hold dear. He took this to be a question about religion, since he is not much of a churchgoer and struggles to cite a single verse from Scripture. “I’m strongly into the Bible, I’m strongly into God and religion,” he declared. But within a few seconds he appeared to grow bored with the topic and switched to talking about how he has “a net worth of much more than $10 billion” and “some of the greatest assets in the world”, including the Trump Tower, the Trump Turnberry golf resort, and so on.

On one domestic issue, to be fair, he has staked out a clear, bold position. Alas, it is an odious one. He wants to build a wall on the Mexican border and somehow make Mexico pay for it. He would deport all 11m immigrants currently thought to be in America illegally. Apart from the misery this would cause, it would also cost $285 billion, by one estimate—roughly $900 in new taxes for every man, woman and child left in Mr Trump’s America. This is necessary, he argues, because Mexican illegal immigrants are “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” Not only would he round them all up; he would also round up and expel their children who were born on American soil and are therefore American citizens. That this would be illegal does not bother him.

His approach to foreign affairs is equally crude. He would crush Islamic State and send American troops to “take the oil”. He would “Make America great again”, both militarily and economically, by being a better negotiator than all the “dummies” who represent the country today. Leave aside, for a moment, the vanity of a man who thinks that geopolitics is no harder than selling property. Ignore his constant reminders that he wrote “The Art of the Deal”, which he falsely claims is “the number-one-selling business book of all time”. Instead, pay attention to the paranoia of his worldview. “[E]very single country that does business with us” is ripping America off, he says. “The money [China] took out of the United States is the greatest theft in the history of our country.” He is referring to the fact that Americans sometimes buy Chinese products. He blames currency manipulation by Beijing, and would slap tariffs on many imported goods. He would also, in some unspecified way, rethink how America protects allies such as South Korea and Japan, because “if we step back they will protect themselves very well. Remember when Japan used to beat China routinely in wars?”

Towering populism

Mr Trump’s secret sauce has two spices. First, he has a genius for self-promotion, unmoored from reality (“I play to people’s fantasies. I call it truthful hyperbole,” he once said). Second, he says things that no politician would, so people think he is not a politician. Sticklers for politeness might object when he calls someone a “fat pig” or suggests that a challenging female interviewer has “blood coming out of her wherever”. His supporters, however, think his boorishness is a sign of authenticity—of a leader who can channel the rage of those who feel betrayed by the elite or left behind by social change. It turns out that there are tens of millions of such people in America.

The country has flirted with populists in the past, but none has won a major-party presidential nomination since William Jennings Bryan in 1908. The closest any true firebrand has come was in 1996, when Pat Buchanan, whose slogan was “The peasants are coming with pitchforks”, won the Republican primary in New Hampshire against a dull establishment candidate, Bob Dole. (Mr Dole later won the nomination.)

Mr Trump is far more dangerous than Pitchfork Pat, for two reasons. First, as a billionaire, he will not run out of money to finance his campaign. Second, he faces so many Republican opponents that he could grab the nomination with only a modest plurality of the vote. The smart money still says that Republicans will eventually unite behind a mainstream candidate, as they always have in the past. But the world cannot take this for granted. Demagogues in other countries sometimes win elections, and there is no compelling reason why America should always be immune. Republicans should listen carefully to Mr Trump, and vote for someone else.

Louisiana’s Budget — The Norquist Wriggle

| NEW ORLEANS | The Economist

EVEN in a place inured to budget trickery, the stratagem was absurd. Louisiana’s treasurer, John Kennedy, called it “nonsense on a stick”. He was referring to the “tax credit” that would apparently balance Louisiana’s budget for the coming fiscal year, closing a deficit gap of $1.6 billion.

This was the plan. The state’s cigarette tax, the third-lowest in the country, would be raised substantially, with the proceeds going to higher education. But rather than declare it as a tax increase, the state would create a phantom fee of about $1,600 applied to each of its 220,000 university students. The students would not actually pay the fee, because it would come with a matching tax credit. This credit would then be handed over to the universities, which would in turn receive the actual money generated by the cigarette-tax increase and a few other things.

Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal, who is expected soon to leap into the crowd of Republican presidential hopefuls, is desperate to be among the fiscally untainted. Since April he has been wrestling with the problem of how to close the budget gap without either raising taxes, which would inflame Mr Norquist, or inflicting further damage on programmes like higher education. Louisiana’s colleges, on his watch, have already sustained some of the deepest cuts in the country.

A simple solution might have been to pare back some of the state’s lucrative and questionable tax breaks for business. But Mr Norquist would frown on that. According to his rules of engagement, any legislative change that results in extra revenue—even eliminating a poorly crafted giveaway—is a tax increase. In February (as furious legislators point out, before he had consulted them), Mr Jindal sought advice privately from the guru himself.

As a result, in came the SAVE Act, an acronym for “Student Assessment for a Valuable Education”. (One legislator moved to amend its title to the DUMB Act, for “Don’t Understand Meaning of Bill”.) Mr Norquist has previously blessed tax increases, provided they are paired with offsetting cuts that make the whole package revenue-neutral. He therefore gave the nod to Louisiana’s contrivance.

Even the legislators who backed the bill cringed at it, and admitted it served only to protect Mr Jindal’s anti-tax credentials. A group of ten Republican legislators, including four who had signed the ATR pledge, added their names to a letter to Mr Norquist written by Joel Robideaux, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee of the Louisiana House. The letter, released to the media, tartly noted that the SAVE Act was a “purely fictional, procedural, phantom, paper tax credit”, and asked Mr Norquist whether he really endorsed it. He replied, the next day, by saying that the SAVE Act was Louisiana’s creation, not his. If the conservatives didn’t want to use that workaround to balance the books, he suggested, they should make cuts elsewhere.

In the end, lawmakers held their noses and voted for a budget that included SAVE, after Mr Jindal made it clear that he would veto the package otherwise. It was quite a spectacle. One of the bill’s chief backers, arguing for its adoption, sold it thus: “Our love for higher education is greater than the embarrassment over the instrument.”

Although Messrs Jindal and Norquist won the battle, it is unclear whether they have won the war. The episode has soured many Louisianian lawmakers on ATR for good. Add in resentment at having to please a Washington power-broker, rather than local constituents, and it seems that Mr Norquist may well have pushed his anti-tax crusade too far.

Bird’s Eye View of Congress

by Charlie Cook for National Journal

One of the few political topics on which there is virtually universal agreement—both inside and outside the Beltway—is that Congress is broken.

The longer one has been in Washington, the more one is convinced that something has gone terribly wrong. But once the subject turns to who is to blame, opinions tend to diverge. Funny thing: People who are Democrats and liberal overwhelmingly blame Republicans and conservatives, while those who are Republican and conservative are equally adamant that Democrats and liberals are at fault. Go figure. Try to think of anyone you know who blames his or her own team for a substantial share of the problem. As pollsters would say, it’s a small cell.

To me, the people worth listening to are those who have been in the trenches of political warfare in Washington and have observed the changes over a long period of time—but are no longer combatants. That perspective carries a lot more weight than those of spectators in the upper deck or operatives who simply want to point fingers at the opposing side. With The Partisan Divide: Congress in Crisis, Tom Davis and Martin Frost, along with Richard Cohen, have written a terrific and insightful book that desperately needed to be written—and that, arguably, no other three people are better qualified to write.

YN4WOM3PDavis, a Republican, served for 14 years in the House, representing the Northern Virginia suburbs. For 26 years, Frost, a Democrat, represented parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas. Each chaired his party’s House campaign committee for four years. Davis went on to chair the Government Reform Committee, and Frost led the Democratic Caucus. I can count on one hand the number of people who have chaired the Democratic or Republican campaign committees over the past 40 years who had both in-depth, granular savvy and a broader, 40,000-foot understanding of politics as it is played in states and districts across the country, and up and down the hallways of the House and Senate office buildings. The third member of the trio is Cohen, who started out as a young Senate staffer and then switched sides to build a distinguished career in journalism. Cohen covered Congress for more than 37 years for National Journal, and he coauthored the Almanac of American Politics for 10 years. No living journalist knows and understands Capitol Hill as intimately as Cohen. It was a treat and an education to work for many years just steps away from him.

Both Frost and Davis are moderates who watched their parties shift. Democrats moved far to Martin’s left; Republicans moved just as far to Tom’s right. This widening gap left each of them more apt than extreme partisans to admit the imperfections and mistakes of his party and the mounting toll on the principle of compromise and the art of governing. Frost’s Texas has become almost a no-fly zone for Democrats statewide. Davis’s Virginia now sports two Democratic senators as well as a Democratic governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general—and no Republican statewide-elected officials.

Davis’s chapter “Divided Government: the New Normal,” walks through the current population and voting patterns that have made the House all but a lock for Republicans these days. He notes that in roughly 80 percent of House districts, Democratic and Republican incumbents’ principal political concern is winning their primaries. Their vulnerability is from the left for Democrats and from the right for Republicans, making legislative compromises across the aisle increasingly difficult to secure.

Both Frost and Davis spend a chapter taking on the very difficult subject of race in American politics. Frost tells of his tenure at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, when pollsters would stop by and talk enthusiastically about how well Democrats were doing among seniors and women. That’s when he would ask for the breakdown of numbers among white seniors and white women. Invariably, these numbers were not nearly so encouraging. But Frost makes the point that Republicans’ dismal performance with minority voters keeps raising the bar for the GOP to attract more and more white voters—in some cases, a bar that’s unreachably high.

Davis provides an interesting history of the evolution of racial voting in this country, with polls showing almost imperceptible differences in the public’s impressions of the two parties on racial issues before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Frost spends a chapter examining the role of redistricting and, with Cohen, contributes a “Moneyball” chapter on the role of campaign finance. Davis takes a close look at the “all politics is local” angle, up to and including then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s shocking primary upset earlier this year. Davis also focuses on the role of independents and the collapse of the middle in politics, while Frost laments both parties’ dangerous obsession with their own base voters and at social media’s role in the growing polarization. Both look at the uniqueness of House and Senate races, which are, as Davis puts it, different animals of the same species. They move on to suggest changes in the operation of Congress and some political reforms that might help fix what is broken on Capitol Hill.

If you are going to read one book this year on what has happened to Congress and why, The Partisan Divide is the one.

This isn’t going to be a “Fire Les Miles” post…

les 1by Scott McKay, courtesy of the Hayride

…because I don’t think that firing Miles, who has won more for longer as LSU’s coach than anyone in the modern history of the program, will make things better.

But after watching Miles’ offense hit absolute rock bottom tonight in getting shut out by an Arkansas team which had lost 17 straight games in SEC play before laying a 17-0 whipping on his toothless Tigers, there are things which ought to be said about LSU’s head coach.

The fact of the matter is that Miles might well be the most clueless coach in college or pro football when it comes to evaluation and use of quarterbacks.

That’s not a rash statement, nor is it an emotional one made after suffering through Anthony Jennings’ latest failure to generate more than 150 yards in the air – a streak which has now reached five games; six if you count the Auburn game Brandon Harris started.

It’s a statement made after watching Miles for 10 years.

The first three years of those 10, Miles had Jamarcus Russell and Matt Flynn at quarterback. He inherited Russell and Flynn from Nick Saban, along with Saban’s offensive coordinator and QB’s coach Jimbo Fisher. Russell ended up the first pick in the NFL draft, and Flynn is still in the league as one of its more reliable backup quarterbacks.

But since taking over the LSU program, Les Miles has not recruited and developed a single high school quarterback into an above average SEC player at the position. In fact, Miles’ record of quarterback recruiting and development has been quite possibly the worst in the SEC over the time period he’s been on the job in Baton Rouge.

Miles’ first quarterback recruit was Ryan Perrilloux. Perrilloux was an NFL talent; he managed to stick around for a couple of years as a backup in the league. Of course, he was a colossal character problem who ultimately made himself such a liability that Miles had to jettison him before the 2008 season. The resulting quarterback play that year was so terrible – seven interceptions run back for touchdowns – that the trauma of it has permanently scarred Miles as a coach ever since.

leeAfter Perrilloux Miles recruited Jarrett Lee, who was the quarterback who threw those seven pick-sixes in 2008 as a redshirt freshman. Lee never recovered from that season and spent his final three years on the bench as a backup save for a stint as an interim starter for the first part of his last year. But by his senior year, Lee had actually developed into a serviceable passer in a conservative, run-oriented offense who could keep the chains moving on a team headed for the national championship game.

Lee didn’t finish his senior year as the starter, because Miles’ next quarterback recruit took over midway through the 2011 season. Jordan Jefferson was handed Lee’s job after he hurt an ankle in the Ole Miss game in 2008, but his play never merited a firm hold on the job. Jefferson showed signs of becoming a serviceable quarterback as a sophomore, regressed horribly as a junior and in fact LSU needed Lee to come off the bench in a number of games to bail out the offense, and promptly got himself suspended before the beginning of his senior year for engaging in a bar fight and getting himself arrested. Most people will tell you that LSU’s offense regressed pretty badly once Lee gave way to Jefferson eight games into the season in 2011; the shutout loss to Alabama in the national title game that year, which was the last shutout loss LSU suffered until tonight’s debacle, put a pretty solid exclamation point on that theory.

Lee didn’t play in that national title game, likely for reasons that don’t all that closely involve football. Miles will never tell us why Jefferson wasn’t pulled out of the game despite having a meltdown on college football’s grandest stage.

When Jefferson was recruited in 2008, Miles actually had Derron Thomas committed at one point. Thomas ended up as the starter at Oregon, put up amazing numbers in a high-powered offense and played in the 2010 national championship game. Among the other quarterbacks LSU recruited that year but didn’t ultimately offer scholarships were Baylor’s Heisman winner Robert Griffin III and Ryan Griffin, who ended up at Tulane and is now on the New Orleans Saints’ roster.

In 2009, Miles signed two quarterbacks, Russell Shepard, who ended up as a wide receiver when it was determined he lacked a college arm, and Chris Garrett, who ate himself out of the position, transferred to Northwestern State where he couldn’t get off the field and ultimately gave up football.

Miles was supposed to have a savior at quarterback in Texas gunslinger Zack Lee, a truly impressive athlete with a cannon for an arm and, from his high school film, the makeup of an NFL quarterback. Unfortunately, Lee also had the makeup of a major league pitcher, and when he got a $5 million bonus offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers and signed a contract rather than playing behind center for LSU an opportunity to have a quarterback of the quality of Flynn or Russell went by the boards.

mettThat left LSU with a major hole at quarterback, because at the time Lee and Jefferson were about to graduate and there was nobody in the pipeline to replace them. It was then that Miles was able to recruit the one quality quarterback he’s landed to date; Zack Mettenberger, who was in exile at Butler County Community College in Kansas after getting kicked off the team at Georgia. Mettenberger came to LSU as a redshirt sophomore out of junior college and sat on the bench as a third-stringer behind Lee and Jefferson in 2011, then was mediocre as a junior starter in 2012 before breaking out and having the only first-rate season a Miles-recruited quarterback has had at LSU last year.

Mettenberger was more of a free agent signing than a recruit. He was looking for the best program at which he could play, and while he was very highly-rated he was also considered something of a character risk after the incident at Georgia which got him kicked off the team.

Nevertheless, he is currently starting for the Tennessee Titans. Mettenberger is the only Les Miles quarterback recruit at LSU to start an NFL game. At every other position on the field save (I think) kicker, Miles has had a player he recruited at LSU start in the NFL, and at most positions he’s had multiple recruits become NFL starters. But at quarterback, the only one to start was a player he recruited out of a junior college.

Since Mettenberger’s signing, quarterback recruiting has been so dismal as to make one question what LSU is doing as a nationally-respected program – particularly in an age of college football in which dependence on quality quarterback play has never been more complete. You simply can’t have better-than-average success in major college football without better-than-average quarterback play, and LSU hasn’t recruited an SEC-level quarterback since 2011.

Miles took Steven Rivers instead of Dak Prescott in 2011, which at the time didn’t seem like a terrible decision. Rivers, after all was Philip Rivers’ brother, and he was 6-7. But the younger Rivers spent three years failing to get off the bench at LSU even as a backup, and this year he transferred to Vanderbilt and proved it wasn’t a mistake not to play him.

Also that year Miles signed Jerald Randall, a spread option quarterback out of Florida who was supposed to add a dimension to the offense. Randall added nothing and was gone to a junior college after a year.

In 2012, Miles took Rob Bolden as a transfer from Penn State. Bolden couldn’t get off the bench and was moved to wide receiver, before he followed Rivers’ lead and transferred to Eastern Michigan – where he has played in six games and completed just 43 percent of his passes.

Miles was supposed to have signed a difference-maker in 2012, as highly-touted Indiana high school quarterback Gunner Kiel committed to Miles’ program. But Kiel, who was supposed to enroll early and join the program for that season (potentially as Mettenberger’s backup for two years and then as the likely starter now), bailed out at the last minute and went to Notre Dame instead, prompting Miles to question whether he had the “chest” to play at LSU. Kiel only stayed at Notre Dame for a year, which would seem to have proved Miles’ critique of his fortitude correct, but he’s now at Cincinnati and posting a sensational season (60 percent completion, 276 yards passing per game, a 24-10 TD-interception ratio and a QB rating of 156.3).

That’s not counting Miles’ signing of Jeremy Liggins in 2012. Liggins, a 275-pound novelty of a quarterback out of Mississippi, couldn’t meet the academic requirements to get into school and ended up in a junior college. He’s now at Ole Miss playing tight end and occasionally getting snaps as the jumbo quarterback who runs sneak plays on third-and-one.

Last year, Miles signed two more quarterbacks who were supposed to fix the problem of Mettenberger’s succession. One of them was a Californian named Hayden Rettig, the other was Jennings. Rettig transferred this summer after falling to third on the depth chart in spring – which made him the fourth quarterback departing LSU’s 2013 roster, the third to leave with eligibility remaining.

Jennings is the starter, and he’s completing less than 50 percent of his passes. He’s having the worst season of a starting quarterback at LSU since Lee in 2008, and frankly that’s arguable; it might be necessary to go back to Jamie Howard in 1994 to find a more unsuccessful starting quarterback in purple and gold.

harrisBut Miles signed Brandon Harris this year, and the Shreveport product is supposedly a future savior of the program. In what limited action he’s had he clearly has a live arm and some talent as a runner. It’s not out of the question that he could be a solid quarterback before he’s done, and perhaps emerge to join Mettenberger as an above-average LSU quarterback Miles recruited. Except if Harris is really that good, why is it he can’t get meaningful action on the field? Jennings has not thrown for more than 200 yards since the season opener against Wisconsin, and tonight’s 12-for-22 performance was the first time he’d completed more than half his passes since an 11-for-18 effort against UL-Monroe. Despite playing nearly every snap since the Florida game Jennings hasn’t completed more than tonight’s 12 passes in a game, nor has he had a game in that stretch in which he’s completed multiple touchdown passes. Jennings hasn’t directed LSU’s offense to more than one touchdown in a game since the win over Kentucky.

And Harris has barely left the bench.

You can chalk that up to Miles’ stubbornness. One senses the problem is worse than that. While Miles has clearly shown himself to be absolutely beyond help in recognizing which quarterbacks can help him win and which can’t, LSU is paying his offensive coordinator Cam Cameron well more than a million dollars a year since hiring him away from an NFL career. If Harris was clearly better than Jennings one would imagine Cameron would be screaming to get him on the field.

But Harris stayed on the bench while Jennings utterly failed to move the football against a team which had lost 17 straight conference games, and this tells you that whatever great potential the freshman might have, he is clearly not inspiring confidence among LSU’s coaches. If they insist on using Jennings and not Harris, they must not think Harris has significantly progressed beyond the disastrous performance he showed at Auburn.

les 3In other respects Les Miles is an exemplary college football coach. He’s won an amazing number of games, he’s filled the NFL with his players, his program is as reputable as any on the major-college scene in terms of academics and discipline and he annually recruits excellent classes. After all, just a week ago Miles’ team outplayed Alabama and would have won the game but for a series of highly questionable officials’ calls all going the other way.

But when Arkansas lays a shutout on you and all but puts your season down the tubes, it’s time to take a hard look at where you are. And right now, Miles’ team is up a creek without a paddle where it comes to the most important position on a football field. His incompetence at filling that position with capable players has come home to roost, and it’s going to ruin his tenure as LSU’s coach unless he can find a fast solution.

Maybe Harris’ light will come on, and that will fix the problem. Frankly, Miles ought to turn the job over to Harris against Texas A&M in the Thanksgiving Night finale and hope for the best. After tonight’s disaster it’s hard to see how the offense could possibly have any confidence in Jennings. If Harris stinks up the joint like he did against Auburn, so be it – you have nothing to lose, and you’ll at least know you don’t have a quarterback capable of playing winning football. That would mean you need to immediately pursue two options; one, another junior-college player like Mettenberger, in hopes one could be found who might stabilize the position next year and fill in the interim until Harris is ready to take it over, or perhaps a senior transfer – he’d better be a lot more like Russell Wilson than Rivers or Bolden, but the right one-and-done senior could be an absolute godsend for the offense and the program overall.

But regardless of what happens in the near future, and we are certainly hoping for the best, the evidence is in. Miles is one of the worst coaches imaginable at finding, keeping and playing quarterbacks. He’s so bad at it that he creates the impression of having a Neanderthal offense, which he doesn’t. LSU’s offense was anything but Neanderthal when Russell and Flynn were the starting quarterbacks, and it wasn’t Neanderthal last year when Mettenberger was a finished product. When Miles doesn’t have a good quarterback, which is every year but last year since Russell and Flynn left, he runs an offense designed to keep his lousy quarterback from costing him games.

Tonight, there was no way for him to do that, indicating the problem might be worse than ever.

And maybe that’s a sign Miles is on the downslope of his coaching career at LSU, finally done in by the inability to produce a capable signal-caller.

les 2Once again, though, we don’t see getting rid of Miles as the solution. It isn’t. We say this, because if you get rid of Miles you’re putting your faith in Joe Alleva, LSU’s athletic director, to find a coach better than he is. Alleva’s major hires at LSU so far were Trent Johnson, the worst men’s basketball coaching hire in the modern history of the program, Nikki Caldwell, the grossly-overpaid and underachieving women’s basketball coach who this weekend saw her team blown out by Arkansas-Little Rock at home while the top player in Louisiana just signed with Baylor (LSU hasn’t signed a recruit so far in the early signing period), and current men’s hoops coach Johnny Jones, who might well end up as a good hire (the jury is definitely out on that question) but was given a $400,000 raise by Alleva after a 39-26 record, 18-18 in the SEC and no trips to the NCAA tournament.

Alleva, with that record of coaching decisions in major sports, can’t be allowed to hire a football coach given the financial stakes involved. He has to be gone before the idea of replacing Miles can be seriously entertained.

And that means Miles had better fix his quarterback problems. Fast.

The Loneliest President Since Nixon

by Peggy Noonan for the Wall Street Journal

Seven years ago I was talking to a longtime Democratic operative on Capitol Hill about a politician who was in trouble. The pol was likely finished, he said. I was surprised. Can’t he change things and dig himself out? No. “People do what they know how to do.” Politicians don’t have a vast repertoire. When they get in a jam they just do what they’ve always done, even if it’s not working anymore.

barry-150x150[1]This came to mind when contemplating President Obama. After a devastating election, he is presenting himself as if he won. The people were not saying no to his policies, he explained, they would in fact like it if Republicans do what he tells them.

You don’t begin a new relationship with a threat, but that is what he gave Congress: Get me an immigration bill I like or I’ll change U.S. immigration law on my own.

Mr. Obama is doing what he knows how to do—stare them down and face them off. But his circumstances have changed. He used to be a conquering hero, now he’s not. On the other hand he used to have to worry about public support. Now, with no more elections before him, he has the special power of the man who doesn’t care.

I have never seen a president in exactly the position Mr. Obama is, which is essentially alone. He’s got no one with him now. The Republicans don’t like him, for reasons both usual and particular: They have had no good experiences with him. The Democrats don’t like him, for their own reasons plus the election loss. Before his post-election lunch with congressional leaders, he told the press that he will judiciously consider any legislation, whoever sends it to him, Republicans or Democrats. His words implied that in this he was less partisan and more public-spirited than the hacks arrayed around him. It is for these grace notes that he is loved. No one at the table looked at him with colder, beadier eyes than outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , who clearly doesn’t like him at all.

The press doesn’t especially like the president; in conversation they evince no residual warmth. This week at the Beijing summit there was no sign the leaders of the world had any particular regard for him. They can read election returns. They respect power and see it leaking out of him. If Mr. Obama had won the election they would have faked respect and affection.

Vladimir Putin delivered the unkindest cut, patting Mr. Obama’s shoulder reassuringly. Normally that’s Mr. Obama’s move, putting his hand on your back or shoulder as if to bestow gracious encouragement, needy little shrimp that you are. It’s a dominance move. He’s been doing it six years. This time it was Mr. Putin doing it to him. The president didn’t like it.

From Reuters: “‘It’s beautiful, isn’t it?’ Putin was overheard saying in English in Obama’s general direction, referring to the ornate conference room. ‘Yes,’ Obama replied, coldly, according to journalists who witnessed the scene.”

The last time we saw a president so alone it was Richard Nixon, at the end of his presidency, when the Democrats had turned on him, the press hated him, and the Republicans were fleeing. It was Sen. Barry Goldwater, the GOP’s standard-bearer in 1964, and House Minority Leader John Rhodes, also of Arizona, who went to the White House to tell Nixon his support in Congress had collapsed, they would vote to impeach. Years later Goldwater called Nixon “The world’s biggest liar.”

But Nixon had one advantage Obama does not: the high regard of the world’s leaders, who found his downfall tragic (such ruin over such a trifling matter) and befuddling (he didn’t keep political prisoners chained up in dungeons, as they did. Why such a fuss?).

Nixon’s isolation didn’t end well.

Last Sunday Mr. Obama, in an interview with CBS ’s Bob Schieffer, spoke of his motivation, how he’s always for the little guy. “I love just being with the American people. . . . You know how passionate I am about trying to help them.” He said what is important is “a guy who’s lost his job or lost his home or . . . is trying to send a kid to college.” When he talks like that, as he does a lot, you get the impression his romantic vision of himself is Tom Joad in the movie version of “The Grapes of Wrath.” “I’ll be all around . . . wherever there’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there.”

I mentioned last week that the president has taken to filibustering, to long, rambling answers in planned sit-down settings—no questions on the fly walking from here to there, as other presidents have always faced. The press generally allows him to ramble on, rarely fighting back as they did with Nixon. But I have noticed Mr. Obama uses a lot of words as padding. He always has, but now he does it more. There’s a sense of indirection and obfuscation. You can say, “I love you,” or you can say, “You know, feelings will develop, that happens among humans and it’s good it happens, and I have always said, and I said it again just last week, that you are a good friend, I care about you, and it’s fair to say in terms of emotional responses that mine has escalated or increased somewhat, and ‘love’ would not be a wholly inappropriate word to use to describe where I’m coming from.”

When politicians do this they’re trying to mush words up so nothing breaks through. They’re leaving you dazed and trying to make it harder for you to understand what’s truly being said.

It is possible the president is responding to changed circumstances with a certain rigidity because no one ever stood in his way before. Most of his adult life has been a smooth glide. He had family challenges and an unusual childhood, but as an adult and a professional he never faced fierce, concentrated resistance. He was always magic. Life never came in and gave it to him hard on the jaw. So he really doesn’t know how to get up from the mat. He doesn’t know how to struggle to his feet and regain his balance. He only knows how to throw punches. But you can’t punch from the mat.

He only knows how to do what he’s doing.

In the meantime he is killing his party. Gallup this week found that the Republicans for the first time in three years beat the Democrats on favorability, and also that respondents would rather have Congress lead the White House than the White House lead Congress.

A few weeks ago a conservative intellectual asked me: “How are we going to get through the next two years?” It was a rhetorical question; he was just sharing his anxiety. We have a president who actually can’t work with Congress, operating in a capital in which he is resented and disliked and a world increasingly unimpressed by him, and so increasingly predatory.

Anyway, for those who are young and not sure if what they are seeing is wholly unusual: Yes, it is wholly unusual.

Now We Can Get Congress Going

By John Boehner and Mitch McConnell
Wall Street Journal
Nov. 5, 2014 7:12 p.m. ET

Americans have entrusted Republicans with control of both the House and Senate. We are humbled by this opportunity to help struggling middle-class Americans who are clearly frustrated by an increasing lack of opportunity, the stagnation of wages, and a government that seems incapable of performing even basic tasks.

Looking ahead to the next Congress, we will honor the voters’ trust by focusing, first, on jobs and the economy. Among other things, that means a renewed effort to debate and vote on the many bills that passed the Republican-led House in recent years with bipartisan support, but were never even brought to a vote by the Democratic Senate majority. It also means renewing our commitment to repeal ObamaCare, which is hurting the job market along with Americans’ health care.

capitolFor years, the House did its job and produced a steady stream of bills that would remove barriers to job creation and lower energy costs for families. Many passed with bipartisan support—only to gather dust in a Democratic-controlled Senate that kept them from ever reaching the president’s desk. Senate Republicans also offered legislation that was denied consideration despite bipartisan support and benefits for American families and jobs.

These bills provide an obvious and potentially bipartisan starting point for the new Congress—and, for President Obama , a chance to begin the final years of his presidency by taking some steps toward a stronger economy.

These bills include measures authorizing the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which will mean lower energy costs for families and more jobs for American workers; the Hire More Heroes Act, legislation encouraging employers to hire more of our nation’s veterans; and a proposal to restore the traditional 40-hour definition of full-time employment, removing an arbitrary and destructive government barrier to more hours and better pay created by the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

We’ll also consider legislation to help protect and expand America’s emerging energy boom and to support innovative charter schools around the country.

Enacting such measures early in the new session will signal that the logjam in Washington has been broken, and help to establish a foundation of certainty and stability that both parties can build upon.

At a time of growing anxiety for the American people, with household incomes stubbornly flat and the nation facing rising threats on multiple fronts, this is vital work.

Will these bills single-handedly turn around the economy? No. But taking up bipartisan bills aimed at helping the economy that have already passed the House is a sensible and obvious first step.

More good ideas aimed at helping the American middle class will follow. And as we work to persuade others of their merit, we won’t repeat the mistakes made when a different majority ran Congress in the first years of Barack Obama’s presidency, attempting to reshape large chunks of the nation’s economy with massive bills that few Americans have read and fewer understand.

Instead, we will restore an era in which committees in both the House and Senate conduct meaningful oversight of federal agencies and develop and debate legislation; and where members of the minority party in both chambers are given the opportunity to participate in the process of governing.

We will oversee a legislature in which “bigger” isn’t automatically equated with “better” when it comes to writing and passing bills.

Our priorities in the 114th Congress will be your priorities. That means addressing head-on many of the most pressing challenges facing the country, including:

  • The insanely complex tax code that is driving American jobs overseas;
  • Health costs that continue to rise under a hopelessly flawed law that Americans have never supported;
  • A savage global terrorist threat that seeks to wage war on every American;
  • An education system that denies choice to parents and denies a good education to too many children;
  • Excessive regulations and frivolous lawsuits that are driving up costs for families and preventing the economy from growing;
  • An antiquated government bureaucracy ill-equipped to serve a citizenry facing 21st-century challenges, from disease control to caring for veterans;
  • A national debt that has Americans stealing from their children and grandchildren, robbing them of benefits that they will never see and leaving them with burdens that will be nearly impossible to repay.

January will bring the opportunity to begin anew. Republicans will return the focus to the issues at the top of your priority list. Your concerns will be our concerns. That’s our pledge.

The skeptics say nothing will be accomplished in the next two years. As elected servants of the people, we will make it our job to prove the skeptics wrong.

Mr. Boehner (R., Ohio), is the House speaker; Mr. McConnell (R., Ky.) is currently the Senate minority leader.

A Shellacking for Obama

How he can salvage his final two years after losing the Senate.
The Wall Street Journal

On the night of his 2012 re-election triumph, following his victory speech, President Obama walked off the stage and made separate phone calls to Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic campaign chairman Steve Israel . He told them he would spend the next two years helping Democrats retake the House in 2014, and he pledged to raise $50 million and devote his 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina to the task.

Two years later we know how that turned out. The Republicans on Tuesday defeated at least four incumbents to take control of the Senate and are adding to their majority in the House. Add the GOP sweep of most of the close races for Governor, including in states Mr. Obama won twice, and the vote is a major repudiation of the President’s governance.

That 2012 episode, reported at the time by the Washington Post, speaks volumes about the reason. Mr. Obama has consistently put liberal policy demands and partisanship above the goals of economic growth and compromise. Far from cementing a Democratic majority, his political posture has helped the GOP make a comeback. The question now is whether he will change enough to salvage his last two years as President.

Liberals are busy discounting Tuesday’s results as meaningless, a “Seinfeld” election about nothing, and it’s true that Republicans failed to offer much of a unified policy agenda. Yet the one issue that has been on the ballot everywhere this year is President Obama and his record.

The main common Republican theme has been linking incumbent Democrats to Mr. Obama and his 42% approval rating. In left-leaning Colorado they have moved the polls by charging that Mark Udall had voted with the President “99% of the time,” and in other states it was 96% or 98%. Mr. Udall lost.

Those Democrats in turn studiously avoided appearing with Mr. Obama, much less having him campaign for them, and the Senate challenger in Kentucky famously wouldn’t even say if she’d voted for him. Georgia Democrat Michelle Nunn identified herself explicitly with George H.W. Bush. Mr. Obama was consigned to campaigning in heavily Democratic states, like Maryland.

Democratic incumbents claimed their votes for the President’s agenda were mostly “procedural,” but the problem is that all of them were with the White House on every vote that mattered. Each of them provided the last “aye” to get ObamaCare through the Senate. Most Democrats barely defended ObamaCare while promising vaguely to fix it, and GOP Senate candidates ran more ads against ObamaCare in October than on any other issue, according to Kantar Media/CMAG.

The GOP’s Senate sweep is especially impressive when you consider that they held all of their current seats, and they picked up Democratic seats in two states, Colorado and Iowa, that Mr. Obama carried twice. The last time the GOP defeated more than two Senate Democratic incumbents was in 1980. Majority Leader Harry Reid ’s strategy of shutting down the Senate stands repudiated.

The GOP also added to their House ranks, with a chance to have the largest Republican majority since the 1950s, and maybe the 1920s (if they hit 247 with a gain of 14 or more). That would be a cushion against potential losses in 2016 and give Speaker John Boehner more policy running room. After losing 63 seats in 2010, Mr. Obama appears to have lost more House seats for his party in midterm elections than any President since Eisenhower, who lost 66 in 1954 (18) and 1958 (48).

And flying below media radar, the GOP could add to its already large advantage in state legislatures—the building blocks of policy experimentation and future candidates for Congress. So much for Mr. Obama’s ambition to be the liberal Reagan.

***

The liberals who have cheered on Mr. Obama as he drove his party into this ditch are now advising that he should double down on partisanship. Veto everything. Rule by regulation, including a vast immigration diktat that would poison any chance of bipartisan and thus politically durable reform. Demonize Republicans at every opportunity to elect Hillary Clinton in 2016.

If we judge by Mr. Obama’s six-year record, that is what he will probably do. But there is a better way that would do more for the country and his own legacy. Start by recognizing that many Republicans want to do more than merely oppose him. They know their own political brand needs burnishing, and that even their most intense partisans want some results from electing Republicans.

Above all that should mean focusing on measures to lift the economy out of the 2% growth trap of the Obama years. We offered this same advice in 2012, pointing to the way rapid growth had helped Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan survive the traumas of their second terms.

Mr. Obama preferred the partisan satisfaction of forcing Republicans to swallow a tax increase, and he has insisted on $1 trillion more as his price for any entitlement reforms. He has preferred gridlock to ending automatic defense spending cuts. The result: Slow growth and falling incomes for all but the wealthy. This is not a legacy a liberal President wants to leave.

The way to avoid it is to work with Republicans in Congress on pro-growth policies. Several could be quick and easy victories. Repeal the medical-devices tax and fix ObamaCare’s bias against hiring full-time employees. Pass fast-track trade authority and the pan-Pacific trade pact. Liberate energy production and export. Trade more defense spending for more dollars for roads.

Immigration and tax reform would take more time, but both are also possible if Mr. Obama is willing to share credit and settle for less than everything he wants. The realist in us doesn’t expect he’ll take any of this advice, but it’s the only way he’ll revive his broken Presidency.