Democrats, divided (on the debt ceiling)

at 06:30 AM ET, 07/22/2011

For weeks, the dominant storyline in the ongoing (and ongoing and ongoing) debt limit negotiations has been the fissure between establishment Republicans and the tea party wing of the GOP.

That all changed Thursday when reports began to surface that a deal that would include $3 trillion in spending cuts — including to entitlement programs — was being hashed out by the White House and House Republicans.

Congressional Democrats — as expertly detailed by the Post’s Paul Kane — reacted angrily to the idea, insisting that such a deal would amount to declaring defeat (politically and otherwise) when victory was in sight.

What the episode proves — for the billionth time in the history of politics — is that what’s good for the goose (Obama) is not always good for the gander (congressional Democrats).

What Obama needs and wants out of this protracted debate about the country’s financial future is a deal.

At the core of the Obama political brand is the idea that he has a unique ability to solve unsolveable political problems — that where other presidents have failed, he will succeed.

While the passage of the health care law was a painful process, Obama and his political team came out of it with what they wanted politically — the ability to say that six past presidents had tried to reform health care, but he had actually done it.

The same logic applies to the debt ceiling debate. Getting a big deal/grand bargain/whole enchilada done is what will re-affirm Obama’s political brand. The specifics of the deal matter less than the deal itself — particularly to political independents who tend to value compromise over any pet issue(s).

That’s simply not the case for congressional Democrats, whose quest to to hold on to the Senate and retake the House majority in 2012 will revolve far less around the power of a political brand and far more around a wedge issue (or two) with which they can effectively frame the choice before voters.

That issue, many party strategists believe, is House Republicans’ vote for a budget put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that would, among other things, turn Medicare into a voucher program. (They point to Rep. Kathy Hochul’s victory in an upstate New York special election earlier this year as evidence of the potency of the Medicare hit on Republicans.)

Under that line of political thinking, including any sort of cuts to Medicare in a debt limit deal would effectively eliminate Democrats’ ability to run on the Ryan budget in 2012 — robbing them of a can’t-miss issue that Republicans have privately acknowledged could cost their party House control.

So while Obama wants to go as big as possible in the debt deal, congressional Democrats want to play, to use a baseball term, small ball. Obama, at the moment, seems more likely to get his way, which is good news for him in 2012 but might not be worth celebrating for Democrats in Congress.

Patriot Majority beats back Crossroads: A Democratic-aligned political action committee is going up with ads in Missouri and Montana to fight back against recent ads by a group affiliated with GOP super PAC American Crossroads.

The left-leaning PAC, Patriot Majority USA, will run approximately $150,000 worth of ads in the two states, where Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) are among the most vulnerable incumbents up in 2012 and have been targeted by ads from Crossroads GPS, the 501(c)(4) arm of American Crossroads.

“No to Medicare. No to seniors. That’s the Republican plan,” say the ads, which begins Friday and will run for one week.

Patriot Majority USA isn’t the first PAC to fight back against Crossroads. Earlier this month, Priorities USA — a Democratic-leaning super PAC — launched a $750,000 buy.

But the Crossroads buy is far bigger, spending $20 million over the course of two months.

ABC says Pawlenty infringing on copyright: ABC Sports is sending Tim Pawlenty a cease-and-desist letter for using footage from the “Miracle on Ice” in a campaign ad.

Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant tells The Fix: “The campaign’s ‘Miracle on Ice’ advertisement was carefully reviewed for legal compliance, and we believe fully complies with the ‘fair use’ doctrine.”

Fixbits:

The downtrodden people in Mitt Romney’s campaign ads may not be quite as downtrodden as the ads suggest.

Newt Gingrich defends Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).

A look at a few congressional races where the debt ceiling is becoming an issue.

Team Pawlenty keeps lowering expectations.

Pawlenty’s new Iowa ad.

Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet (D), who challenged Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) in 2010, has dropped his 2012 campaign.

Manan Trivedi, the Democratic nominee against Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) may face a primary rematch with the well-funded Doug Pike.

Must-reads:

GOP governors swing right, leaving voters behind” — Nate Silver, New York Times

As rivals stir, Romney sticks to playing it safe” — Jeff Zeleny and Jennifer Medina, New York Times

Pawlenty struggles for Iowa foothold” — Patrick O’Connor, Wall Street Journal

Read more on PostPolitics

Democrats fuming at reported compromise

Obama to talk debt at UMd. townhall Friday

Huntsman loses campaign manager

 
Read what others are saying