As the Republican primaries continue to follow a long dream sequence imagined by David Plouffe — another muddled weekend, but more signs of Santorum strength — it's worth keeping an eye on what the White House is doing.
The people there aren't twiddling their thumbs or using them to high-five each other in glee over Republican travails. Rather, they are building their infrastructure of supporters, raising and stockpiling money and making various message feints and thrusts. In other words, they are using the luxury of time to execute a strategy, while the Republicans play in the mud.
I am particularly intrigued by two recent developments on the message front. President Obama has signaled an interest in engaging on clean energy and on health care, two areas that might be viewed as weaknesses for him. Obama recently went to North Carolina to tout his clean-energy investments as part of the solution to high gas prices.This is interesting in light of the controversy over Solyndra. And there were reports this weekend that the White House plans to use the controversy over the health-care law as an opportunity to reinforce a message to women of the bill’s benefits to them and their families. (Women are the main decision-makers on health care.)
This aspect of Obama's strategy might be seen as the reverse of Karl Rove's desire to make an opponent's strength a weakness. Rove did this neat trick with the swift-boating of John Kerry, taking one of the senator's greatest credentials and calling it into question. What the president may be doing is the opposite — making his weaknesses into strengths.