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Matthews: 2012 depends on the economy

Let me finish tonight with the looming Republican fight.

Let me finish tonight with the looming Republican fight. I look at this in sports terms - okay it's not "that" exciting - but here goes.

You've got the regular Republican Party that believes in cutting spending and lower taxes but believes in debate and negotiation toward a more conservative government.  They're the Eastern Conference.

Then, you've got the Tea Party types - the people who don't like government or even politics.  Call them the Western Conference.

After last night's debate I'm showing Mitt Romney well ahead in the Eastern Conference, Michele Bachman the star of the Western.

I say this because Tim Pawlenty refused to take on Romney on last night, refused to repeat his charge that President Obama had taken his health care plan from the Romney health program in Massachusetts.  He called it "Obamney-care" on Sunday when alone on Fox, then refused to do it last night when he was standing alongside Romney. 

Score this night - and it's a big one - for the frontrunner.              

I give Bachman the lead in the Western Conference because no one is really able to touch her on the Tea Party front.   She used last night's debate as a platform to announce she's running for president.  That shows her stagecraft.  So we've got a good fight coming - Romney vs. Bachman. 

I think this is the bout that Romney wants.  He figures that the forces of nature are moving in his direction: the economy is slow to rebound; the 2012 election is shaping up as a 50/50 situation between the parties, the winner being the candidate who makes the fewest mistakes.

What can change the situation is the entry of former Governor Jon Huntsman into the race next week. He will have to take on Romney for the simple reason it's his only reason for running.  If Romney's okay then why his Huntsman running in the first place?

So here's the scenario.  Bachman beats Romney in Iowa.  She was born there and holds the definite home state advantage.  Romney then wins in New Hampshire where he's the New England candidate.   They then head to South Carolina where Bachman needs to win.

All this, all anything in 2012 depends on, is the economy.  It we see a spike in job creation, a bullish market, a clear sign of blue skies, the Republican battle will lose its zest.  Right now it has the look of a battle that matters. 

My question is more basic.  If President Obama gets some wind in his back can he create the kind of forward motion that brought him into the presidency the first time?  Can he show a purpose and an agenda that comes crashing through today's doleful jobs figures, depressed housing market and delinquent excitement.