Why 13 months?

The deal just struck between the White House and Congressional Republicans (Democrats are not yet on board) has an element which struck me as odd: a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits. Why 13 months, and not some other number? Let me hazard a guess.

Let’s suppose the extension passes before the lame duck session expires in a few weeks. Add 13 months to December 2010 and you are in January 2012. A quick calendar check shows that to be just prior to the first primaries of the 2012 Presidential election.

Thus, just before the electorate begins to vote in the Presidential primaries, we are almost sure to see another debate about unemployment benefits, this time whether to extend them beyond the unprecedented 3-year duration they’ve been pushed to.

Obama could play this a couple of ways, depending on the situation at that time. For example, if he’s being challenged from the left, he could advocate for yet another extension, thus taking the issue away from his primary opponent. On the other hand, if he has no serious opposition, he could take a stand against an additional extension, thereby defusing this as an issue for the general election against his Republican opponent.

Either way, it gives him some options. It may not be a coincidence that the end of the 13-month extension to unemployment benefits and the start of the 2012 presidential primary season coincide.