President Obama and the political perils of summer vacation

at 07:35 AM ET, 08/18/2011


New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left, rides in a golf cart driven by President Obama, right, while playing golf at Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown, Mass., on the island of Martha's Vineyard on Friday, Aug. 27, 2010. The president and his family are vacationing on the island again this summer. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
President Obama leaves today for a 10-day summer vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, a trip that Republicans are casting as inappropriate given the economic straits in which the country currently finds itself.

While Obama and his political team have offered little public comment about the criticism, it seems hardy coincidental that the White House announced Wednesday that the president would deliver a major speech on the economy shortly after Labor Day.

Start your clocks/stopwatches: The next 19 days — between today and Sept. 6 — will be a major political gauntlet for Obama to run as he seeks to defuse attacks on his vacation spot while preparing for a speech that he hopes will reset the jobs and economic debate heading into 2012.

While Obama has faced Republican fire each of the past two summers for vacationing in the tony Cape Cod enclave of Martha’s Vineyard, the ongoing struggles of the economy and the yo-yo-ing of the stock market — not to mention that he will stand for re-election next year — make the summer of 2011 a bit different.

Despite the potential political complications of images being beamed across the country of a president hiking, biking and eating ice cream (Four Seas is the best ice cream joint on the Cape) while the country’s economy continues to scuffle, the Obama White House has insisted that there will be no change in his plans.

“I don’t think Americans out there would begrudge that notion that the president would spend some time with his family,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters earlier this week, adding that Obama would still be working and that “... there’s no such thing as a presidential vacation.”

The refusal to change plans reflects a broader approach to politics that Obama and his political team adopted during the 2008 campaign. In that race, the senior lieutenants in Obama world became convinced that the political chattering class in D.C. was badly out of touch with everyday Americans and that allowing the latter group to dictate the political rules was a recipe for defeat.

It’s an attitude that fueled Obama’s election and much of the broad strategic approach that he has taken to major issues during his first two-plus years in the White House — with mixed results.

The Obama team long insisted that the health care bill was not a major political problem for their side, insisting that the D.C. echo chamber had blown the potential impact far out of proportion. But the legislation clearly set the table for Republican gains in the 2010 midterms.

Obama and his senior advisers are hoping that by keeping a (relatively) low profile, the president can fit in a vacation that doesn’t do him any longer-term political damage.

But, the fact that Obama’s poll numbers are at — or near — a low ebb and there are tangible signs of the economy’s continued problems, it’s a somewhat dangerous gambit for him to be largely out of sight for the next three weeks (or so).

His vacation decision also ups the stakes for his post-Labor Day economic speech, the latest attempt by the president to re-seize control of the economic narrative heading into the November 2012 general election.

NRCC adds six to Young Guns: House Republicans’ campaign arm — the National Republican Congressional Committee — is set to add six new recruits to its Young Guns program, which is devoted to shepherding candidates with potential on to victory.

The six candidates are:

• Law student Ricky Gill, who is running againt Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.)

• Afghanistan veteran Tom Cotton, who is running for retiring Rep. Mike Ross’s (D-Ark.) seat

• Former congressman Matt Salmon and former state House speaker Kirk Adams, who are running for Senate candidate Rep. Jeff Flake’s (R-Ariz.) seat.

• Former Winter Park City Commissioner Karen Diebel, who is expected to run for one of the Florida’s two new seats.

• And attorney Keith Rothfus, a repeat candidate who could challenge the winner of a primary between Reps. Mark Critz (D-Pa.) and Jason Altmire (D-Pa.).

These six join 17 other candidates who have been named to program in recent weeks.

The program sets benchmarks for each candidate and moves them through different stages according to their progress, with the final stage being “Young Gun.”

NRCC buys more time in Nevada: Speaking of competitive races, the NRCC is having to spend even more money to defend its seat in a Nevada special election.

According to the National Journal, the NRCC has extended its ad buy, which began July 29, through Aug. 22. The extra $116,000 in time brings the committee’s total investment in support of former state party chairman Mark Amodei (R) to $345,000.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has not yet bought time to help out state Treasurer Kate Marshall (D). The race is set for Sept. 13.

The two candidates also debated each other Wednesday night, with Marshall going on the offensive against Amodei.

Kinder comes clean: Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R) acknoweldeged in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he attended a strip club about 10 times, starting when he was a state senator in the 1990s, before he decided that it conflicted with his religious beliefs.

While there, the likely candidate for governor met a stripper whom he was photographed with recently.

The woman has said Kinder made unwanted advances on her. Kinder said he only stopped by the bar she was working at — which is not a strip club but is known for it’s “pantsless parties” — because he had to use the bathroom. And then he decided to order a glass of wine.

Don’t count on this story dying. The idea that Kinder just stopped in to go to the bathroom and then ordered a glass of wine is odd, to say the least.

Kinder also uses a Dean Martin song to explain his affection for the stripper, Tammy Chapman, quoting the lyrics from “Let’s Be Friendly.”

Fixbits:

Obama won’t be signing any pledges.

Obama’s approval on the economy plummets to 26 percent.

Despite his criticism, Karl Rove says Texas Gov. Rick Perry had a good week.

Ron Paul says Perry makes him look like a moderate when it comes to the Federal Reserve. (That’s because Paul only wants to end it, not charge it’s leader with treason.)

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) says, as president, she will be able to reduce the price of gas to $2 a gallon — guaranteed.

Who is being talked up as a potential vice presidential pick?

The AFL-CIO assures that it will stand by Obama in 2012.

No surprise here: Tim Pawlenty against rules out running for Senate.

With the Wisconsin recalls over, former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) moves towards an expected Senate bid, announcing campaign co-chairs.

Sean Penn gets involved in the race for retiring Rep. Lynn Woolsey’s (D-Calif.) seat.

Former Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell walks out on an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan when he repeatedly asks her about gay marriage.

Must-reads:

Perry, Romney offer a contrast on jobs, economy” — Philip Rucker, Washington Post

Obama to issue new proposals on job creation, debt reduction” — Zachary A. Goldfarb and Peter Wallsten, Washington Post

Michele Bachmann’s bouncers: Unnecessary roughness” — Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin, Politico

Party Crashers All the Rage, Aren’t All the Same” — Nathan L. Gonzales, CQ Roll Call

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