After a period in which the phrase “party of No” seemed to have fallen out of favor, the Obama campaign is again hammering away at the GOP as the “party of No” with sudden new frequency. The new Obama campaign video released today hits this theme hard. And in a speech today, Obama himself again laced into GOP obstructionism at length.
But it’s worth noting that Obama’s “party of No” message has been tweaked, and is being used in service of a new goal. Before it was all about painting the GOP as unwilling to help solve the country’s problems, and about driving up the GOP’s negatives generally.
Now, however, the resurgent “party of No” message is all about burnishing Obama’s character, by painting him as willing to persevere against implacable opposition — represented here by the GOP itself — and tremendous odds.
In the new video, we see image after image of Republicans saying No to Obama’s initiatives, including Mitch McConnell declaring that job one is to deny Obama a second term. The narrator then says: “And still, he persevered. Here at home, and as commander in chief.”
Meanwhile, in his speech today to union officials, Obama again revived the “party of No” theme: “I’ve sent Congress a whole series of jobs bills that would have put your members back to work. But time after time, Republicans have gotten together and said `no.’”
Then Obama added: “But we can’t wait for Congress to do its job. You can’t afford to wait. And where Congress won’t act, I will. That’s why I’ve taken steps on my own to speed up loans and competitive grants for projects across the country that will support thousands of jobs.”
The revival of the “party of No” phrase in this way points to a strategic dilemma the Obama campaign faces. The question surrounding Obama’s constant railing against GOP obstructionism has long been: Will swing voters care? It’s long seemed clear that even voters who accept that the GOP has been obstructing Obama’s agenda purely for political reasons could shrug and say: “That’s politics. Obama should be able to get it done despite GOP opposition. If he can’t, he must be weak and ineffective.”
Resolving this problem is what’s driving the effort to highlight GOP obstructionism — along with inheriting two wars and the worst financial crisis in decades — as yet another obstacle Obama persevered against. Obama and his team recently concluded they needed to reframe the standoff with the GOP as one that didn’t showcase Obama’s inability to get things done in the face of political obstructionism but as one that demonstrates Obama’s continued action, in spite of determined and implacable opposition, via the exercise of executive power and his “We Can’t Wait” campaign. That’s what you’re seeing today, and you’ll be seeing a lot more of it.