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Right Turn
Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 01/03/2012

Obama’s general-election strategy

The Post reported: “President Obama has a New Year’s resolution that will shape his reelection strategy at the dawn of 2012: Keep beating up on an unpopular Congress.” Democrats had better hope there is something more to the Obama campaign strategy. His plan to run against Congress, frankly, makes zero sense.

The notion that Obama can win back the White House by complaining about House Republicans is the sort of idea political consultants come up with in late-night strategy sessions but which bears no relationship to facts or the voters’ concerns. Recall that Obama had two years with majority control of the both houses of Congress. Aside from jamming through ObamaCare, which has, among other things, ended the career of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), he accomplished nothing other than hiking the debt. It’s hard to run against your own party in Congress.

Then there is the problem of the Democratic-controlled Senate. That it failed to pass a budget in more than two years or present its own entitlement reform plans leaves Obama in the position of struggling to explain how all that ails the country must be the fault of the House Republicans (who actually did their job and passed a budget).

Moreover, had Obama intended to run against Congress, he would have been wise to present his own entitlement reform plan, his own tax reform proposals and his own credible debt plan. In 2011, regarding that, all he did was offer a laughable budget that froze domestic spending at inflated levels. Other than that, he gave a speech excoriating Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan and talked generalities with congressional negotiators during the fights over the 2011 continuing resolution and the debt-ceiling hike. Generally, if one is to complain effectively about obstructionism by the other side, it is a good idea to have offered something productive of your own.

Finally, Obama isn’t running for speaker of the House. His argument seems to boil down to an admission that he can’t get anything done with the opposing party. Given that at least one house of Congress, in all likelihood, will have a Republican majority, why should the voters elect a president whose relations are so soured with Congress that he’s reduced to accusing opponents of putting party above country?

The game plan seems especially ill-conceived if Mitt Romney is the GOP nominee. Here’s a candidate whose work with Democrats has unnerved his own party. Here’s a candidate who’s brimming with specific plans on taxes, jobs and entitlement reform. Upon further reflection, it would seem Romney should be running against a do-nothing, can’t-get-along-with-Congress incumbent. It’s hard to see why Romney wouldn’t respond to Obama’s complaints about the House with a reminder that he worked effectively with a legislature that was overwhelmingly Democratic.

I wonder whether Obama is all that serious about the “run against Congress” strategy. It has all the earmarks of a whip-up-the-base strategy before the general election gets underway. Given his abysmal performance on jobs and the debt, the public’s grouchy outlook and the prospect of high unemployment for the foreseeable future, the only strategy that seems remotely viable is to vilify his opponent. It’s hard to imagine his campaign will be anything other than a mean-spirited, mud-throwing and scare-mongering affair. That might work a whole lot better against Newt Gingrich or Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), who do seem rather scary. But that doesn’t mean he won’t try it against Romney. It’s all he’s got.

By  |  10:30 AM ET, 01/03/2012

Categories:  2012 campaign

 
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