This was probably the worst week of the Obama presidency so far. President Obama’s foreign policy reboot failed, the economy is in the tank, the VA scandal is a growing cancer on the presidency, criticisms of the administration’s forthcoming gratuitous plan to raise everyone’s power bill via regulations that will essentially shut down coal-fired power plants have already emerged, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned this morning and just a short while ago solid but beleaguered White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said he is throwing in the towel. How could things get any worse for Obama and the Democrats?
In terms of impact on the 2014 elections, Obama certainly seems to be doing his part for the Republicans. And as the old axiom goes, never interfere when the opposition is in the process of destroying themselves.
Unfortunately we are still several months away from the elections, and Republicans will still need a core message. With all the debacles, calamities, failures, mistakes and plain old bad policies associated with this administration and the Democrats generally, it’s easy to get lured off-topic and it’s hard to maintain good message discipline. Republicans should not take the bait. They should not be too distracted by faux-scandals like the accidental naming of the CIA station chief in Kabul. Republicans should not get caught up in the disaster du jour, nor should they pursue the VA fiasco as a scandal in the traditional sense. The systemic mismanagement within the VA is a political catastrophe – similar to what Hurricane Katrina was like for President Bush. No one at the Obama White House wanted to deprive veterans of proper care; they just don’t know how to govern. We should not overreach.
For Republicans, the midterm elections still have to be about the economy and Obamacare. With all the noise and confusion this week, it was underreported that President Obama’s own Commerce Department released the second GDP estimate for the first quarter of 2014, which revealed that GDP growth actually contracted by a full percentage point from January through March, heading into recession territory. That’s big news.
Meanwhile, Democrats are trying to say that Republicans are going wobbly in the face of growing Obamacare enrollment numbers. That’s wishful thinking. The administration’s enrollment claims don’t tell half the story. Republicans need to double down on the idea that Obamacare is a travesty – that it is the perfect example of government run amuck and it is bad health care and economic policy to boot. And, the more people who are forced to enroll in Obamacare, the more dissatisfaction will grow, as more Americans suffer from increasingly expensive premiums, fewer health-care options and providers and a deductible that many Americans just can’t afford. The Democrats hope that millions of dissatisfied Americans will learn to grin and bear it and develop amnesia before Nov. 4.
It has been a colossal train wreck of a week for the Democrats. It has been compelling to watch. But the good news for the Democrats is the bad news for Republicans: That this too shall pass. Remember, it’s still only May.
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