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Congress May Play Romney’s Hand on Student Loans

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People listen as US President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Colorado Boulder April 24, 2012 in Boulder. (credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

People listen as US President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Colorado Boulder April 24, 2012 in Boulder. (credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

President Barack Obama was in Colorado on Tuesday to speak at the University of Colorado. His comments were geared to garner support from college students as he discussed how he wants to keep student loan interest rates from doubling later this year.

If garnering the votes of students only came down to the stance taken on student loan rates, President Obama would not have a clear advantage over Mitt Romney. The presumptive GOP candidate agrees that student loan rates should not double, as they are scheduled to later this year.

Because of the similar stances on the issue, it may seem that when it comes to student loan rates and the Presidential race that the odds are even.

VIDEO: Watch Obama’s Complete Speech At The University Of Colorado

However, the Republican House might end up tilting the scales for Obama by making the overall Republican opinion on the issue to allow the rates to double, despite Romney being against it.

One of the handicaps that Mitt Romney suffers from since he has not been able to unify the Republican Party is that his fellow party members in Congress have no problem asserting their dominance over him. While they would love to see President Obama defeated, House Republicans are not about to allow Romney to establish the agenda for the party in order to do so.

That becomes a problem on issues like student loan rates because while Obama and Romney agree, the Obama campaign may be able to show voters that GOP as a whole doesn’t care about the doubling of the rate, and Mitt Romney’s opinion becomes irrelevant.

That’s a lose-lose scenario for Romney. On one hand, if there are any voters that would be swayed by this single issue, he loses them despite of his stance, because of his GOP colleagues.

On the other hand, with House Republicans setting the agenda on the issue, it shows what little influence he has on the situation, and might give a sign that he wouldn’t be able to effectively corral his own party if he was President.

If the general approval rating of Congress continues to trend in the low teens, the Obama campaign can make an effective point by saying under a Romney presidency, the unpopular Congress would really be the one in charge.

I certainly do not want to make too much out of one issue. Despite being important, there really cannot be that many voters that will determine their vote on this one issue. If Mitt Romney loses the election, it won’t be simply because of student loan rates doubling. Nor would Congress signing off on keeping the rate the same, ensure a victory for Romney.

But the larger point is that this one minor campaign issue elaborates a bigger problem for Romney. Even though he may take stances that are popular with voters, especially centrist voters, Obama may be able to use the stance Congress takes on the issue as a blunt instrument against Romney.

The unfortunate part for Romney is that the Democratic Senate is a far less attractive weapon to use against Obama. First, while not in absolute agreement with the President, the Democratic Senate has not been able to publicly assert its authority as much as the Republican House. Secondly, President Obama has unified enough of his party to keep any internal threats to his agenda at bay.

Student loan rates are important to college graduates and some can argue that doubling them would be a serious blow to a portion of the population just entering the job market. But more importantly, the student loan rate conversation may end up being an example of how much of the next part of the Presidential campaign may go for Mitt Romney, whether he likes it or not.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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