The Post reports: “There is a noticeably more aggressive, confrontational President Obama roaming the country these days, selling his jobs plan and attacking Republicans for standing in the way of progress by standing up only for the rich. . . . The emergence of this more pugnacious Obama has heartened Democrats, especially the most liberal ones, who spent the past few months dejected by what they saw as the president’s unwillingness to engage his opponents in political combat.”
This may be emotionally satisfying, like some New Age scream therapy, but it’s entirely counterproductive.
Certainly, Obama has problems with his base. But even if he gets it to sulk less, he still will not have achieved anything on its agenda (e.g. a massive tax increase), the economy will still be bad and independents will be even more convinced he’s a desperate ideologue.
His strategy is not designed to achieve passage of any legislation. It’s not designed to help his party protect red-state lawmakers in vulnerable seats (quite the opposite), and it’s not going to help him with his alternative map (Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina, etc.), which he is devising to get around the problem that he’ll have a tough time winning in the Rust Belt.
Think of this as the opposite of this 2008 campaign strategy. There he had to reassure working class, non-minority and upper-class urbanites that he was sober, serious and unifying. He was successful in doing so, and thereby, was able to win not only Rust Belt states but many states George W. Bush had won in 2004 (including Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Florida and Colorado). It is as if Obama were going in reverse, further alienating those segments of the electorate he labored to capture in 2008.
He doesn’t have a primary challenger, but he is acting as if he does by veering to the left. Maybe he’ll travel back to the center in the general election. Or maybe, he’s just out of steam and his team is out of touch with what ails its candidate. It’s not insufficient partisanship that is his problem. Nor is he suffering from lack of exposure. His problem is that the economy stinks, his policies are perceived as unhelpful, and he has racked up a mound of debt that has further imperiled our economy and mortified moderate voters.
As an aside, one can imagine that next to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, no one is as dismayed by the governor’s stumbles as much as the president. Sure, Obama can say Mitt Romney is “out of the mainstream” but that sounds loopy. Romney is about as mainstream as you’re going to get in this environment. It would be delicious for the White House to run against the guy whose uninsured rate is at 25 percent, but how’s he going to demonize RomneyCare?
The irony, in the age of the Tea Party, is that Obama is running left, Romney is running to the center and the most likely election face-off at this stage is between a failing incumbent and an establishment Republican. Who’d have expected that?