Earlier today, I flagged a telling quote from Corey O’Brien, a Democratic supporter of Obama from northeastern Pennsylvania. “Enough with the soft approach,” O’Brien said. “He’s got to say, ‘I’m in charge, and I’m going to get it done with or without Congress.’ ”
I argued that this sense could be widespread, and demonstrates a perverse but extremely important dynamic. Republicans benefit from blocking Obama’s jobs policies — even ones Americans think would help the economy — because ultimately voters could hold Obama accountable for failing to overcome GOP opposition. Indeed, as Steve Benen and Kevin Drum both explain very well, this dynamic actually creates an incentive for Republicans to continue blocking Obama policies Americans support.
I thought it would be worth checking back with O'Brien to get a sense of how widespread this sentiment is in that region, a bellwether area that Obama is set to visit today.
Turns out it is widespread, and that this dynamic may well be in full force. O’Brien said that many voters from the region are fully convinced that Republicans are deliberately trying to block Obama policies that might help alleviate joblessness — but that in their minds, the buck still stops with the president.
“People see that Republicans have been the party of blocking progress — that’s clear,” O’Brien told me. “The people of northeastern Pennsylvania, who will help decide who wins the state, all understand what’s going on.”
But he added: “They still look at the president and say, `the buck stops with the president.’ And that’s something the president has to overcome.”
O’Brien predicted that Republicans would not be rewarded for their obstructionism in the end. But he depicted an extremely volatile political environment, in which people are enraged by government’s failure to alleviate people’s economic suffering. He said Obama still needs to find some way of either securing some GOP support or making it even clearer that he grasps the depth of pubic rage over gridlock and that he’s the one fighting to make things better.
“The frustration is boiling over,” he said. “There’s an awareness here that the president can’t do this alone and that’s never been more true than it’s been now.” But he again characterized public sentiment by saying: “The buck stops with the president.”
And there you have it.
UPDATE: O’Brien got in touch with me after Obama’s speech today, and he sounded convinced that Obama was striking the tone he needs to strike. He said he thinks Obama “scored a lot of points” with eastern Pennsylvanians.