Post-election Obama administration winners and losers emerge

By Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 1, 2011; 12:24 PM

When President Obama last week abandoned his support of a law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman and tapped an openly gay man as White House social secretary, he gave gay rights activists their third straight key victory on a major issue since last November's elections.

But gay rights groups aren't the only ones who have as emerged as winners in the post-shellacking stage of the Obama presidency. Here's a look at some groups getting more support from Obama post-midterms, and others who are not.


Business: From meetings with chief executives to extensive praise of their companies, Obama has become a loud, constant champion for American business since November. The moves have an obvious political tenor, not only quieting a group of critics but perhaps opening the wallets of some in the corporate world for Obama's reelection campaign.

Gays: Gay rights activists are generally liberal-leaning, so it's not clear Obama gets any real political benefit from his moves on their issues. In some ways, their gains were simply a matter of timing. The repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" ban on gays serving openly in the military was easier to push through Congress after the elections than when health-care and other issues were on the docket. But this, too, could help persuade a key constituency to donate.

The Departed: Obama is not known as being sentimental, but he left the White House to appear at a goodbye party for longtime aide David Axelrod and then lavished praise on outgoing press secretary Robert Gibbs at his last press briefing.

The Elderly: The president has all but taken off the table raising the retirement age or reducing Social Security benefits as a deficit reduction idea, no doubt a position that will help with a constituency that Democrats badly lost in 2010.

Science and Technology Geeks: Obama can't stop talking about whatever innovation he has seen lately or children he has met who are competing in science fairs. Part of his "winning the future" mantra seems to be to encourage every kid in America to become a science or engineering major.


The Left: Obama scolded liberals at a press conference in December and hasn't done much to woo them since. He refused to include gun control measures in the State of the Union address, has openly courted business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that many on the left dislike and has largely sidelined action on issues such as climate change that liberals want to see pushed.

The Media: Long a media scold, the president seems to have taken all of the frustration he can no longer express in public about the GOP (see below) and turned it toward the press. He complained throughout the 18 days of unrest in Egypt that the media had unfair expectations of what he should say and how much he could push forward the process.

Mitt Romney: Obama on Monday again invoked the health-care plan Romney signed in Massachusetts to cast the health-care overhaul law in a bipartisan glow. Don't expect Romney to send him a thank-you card for a move that damages Romney's chances of winning the 2012 GOP primaries.

This seems an intentional effort; Gibbs, Axelrod and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), a close Obama ally, have also linked the Massachusetts plan to the federal health-care law in the past several weeks.

In the Middle

The Republicans: Obama has largely stopped attacking the GOP since Election Day, in an attempt to woo voters in the middle who tired of the partisanship of the past two years. On the other hand, he has cast Republicans as eager to cut everything, even spending on programs such as education that are popular with the public.

The Unemployed: Obama pushed for billions of dollars in unemployment benefits in the December tax deal with the GOP. But he has not reached out to the unemployed on his jobs tour to hear their views on the economy.

Labor: On the one hand, Obama has defended public workers in the face of the moves by Wisconsin's Scott Walker and other Republican governors to reduce their collective bargaining rights. On the other hand, he did freeze the pay of most federal workers.

Minorities: The White House brought nearly every prominent black official in Washington to one of its various Black History Month events. It has consistently said it is interested in immigration reform, a big priority of Latino activists.

But Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, personally complained to Obama about proposed budget cuts by the White House he felt would harm black communities. And immigration reform hardly seems a major priority of the administration.

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