Israel said Obama told him “how focused he would be on winning a House majority for the Democrats,” many of whom complained that the president did not do enough during his first term to help members on the Hill.
In early January, Israel said, he met in Washington with Jim Messina, Obama’s reelection campaign manager and now head of Organizing for Action, also known as OFA. The subject was the 2014 midterms.
“If 2012 was a referendum on President Obama, then 2014 will be a referendum on the tea party Congress,” Israel said. “And the president and House Democrats are joined at the hip on this.”
State of the Union address
last month, Obama outlined an agenda that called for guncontrol measures, immigration legislation, a hike in the minimum wage and a new focus on climate change, among other items that poll well with the public.
So far, though, most of the proposals have little traction in the Republican-controlled House. Obama’s decision to squarely blame the opposition for across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester has also generated little goodwill across the aisle.
That is among the risks of Obama’s strategy to define the differences between his agenda and the Republicans’: He could be seen as the kind of partisan politician he once deplored, and he is likely to have little to show for it in terms of legislative achievements.
Two former Obama White House officials used the same word — “hubris” — to describe what they viewed as the administration’s highly public and sometimes misleading turn against congressional Republicans in the days heading into the sequester.
In a January speech, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) warned that Obama intends to “annihilate” the Republican Party in his second term, a charge the White House denied.
But a Boehner spokesman, Brendan Buck, said the president “would like nothing more than to have complete liberal control of Congress for his last two years in office.”
“Just look at what he’s doing now,” Buck said, referring to the sequester. “He’s not even negotiating at this point. It’s purely political theater.”
In some ways, Obama is flipping the traditional script for second-term presidents.
Most have about two years to secure a domestic agenda before lame-duck status sets in. But Obama is laying out an argument for a new Congress that, if successful, could give him his last two years in office to cement his legacy.
The GOP resistance to his agenda is helping give Obama the political framework for the midterm congressional campaign — if not short-term legislative victories.