A lot of people are quoting Atrios’s summation of the White House mid-term election campaign strategy, so I might as well, too.
So let’s say Obama’s people have correctly deduced that there’s no chance in hell of getting anything through Congress. They have two basic options. First, they could get on the teevee every day and say, “This is my plan to help. Republicans in Congress won’t pass it.” They could hold rallies in Maine. Allies could run ads. At least people would know who is for and who is against…and just what it was that people are for or against.
Option two is back off proposals you’ve previously made and have Axelrod get on the teevee and say, “there is some argument for additional spending in the short-run to continue to generate economic activity.”
The logic behind the cool — practically supine — response is that Yelling and Screaming on TV isn’t this White House’s shtick; leave that to the Glenn Becks and the Fox News and Rush Limbaughs of the world while the Obama administration calmly goes about its business of keeping the country running. This seemed to work when they passed the stimulus package and healthcare reform. The fact that it also drove progressives to vituperativity didn’t factor in.
But times have changed, especially since the Republicans have mastered the art of saying No, then turning around and saying “See, you can’t get anything done, you won’t work with us, and all you do is blame us for the huge clustastrophe we left you.” This isn’t March or April any more; there are less than four months before the mid-terms. The economy isn’t going to recover all the jobs that were lost during the recession in that time; hell, they’ll be lucky if they make up half of them by 2012. So if that’s what the mid-terms are going to be decided on, the Democrats are going to get licked, possibly even to the point that John Boehner becomes Speaker of the House. If so, expect to hear two years of whining and complaining about how he can’t get anything done because the Obama administration and the Democrats screwed up so badly. That’s how that works.
On Meet the Press, Robert Gibbs basically sent out the message that the White House knows they’re going to lose in the mid-terms and they’re already focused on 2012. There may be some political gamesmanship here; setting expectations low so that when it happens it won’t come as a shock, or if, by some miracle they retain just enough to keep the majority, it will seem like genius. But if that’s the plan, why is the White House sending out mixed signals? If the president is going to go out on the stump in Kansas City and go into full campaign mode, then don’t send Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod out on the Sunday chat shows two days later to lower expectations. All that does is give Chris Mathews something to talk about on Monday: “Mixed messages! Let’s play Hardball!”
E.J. Dionne notes that the Democrats have lost a good deal of support among the independent voters. That may easily be, but the one thing that could save the Democrats is the wingnut factor. We’re already seeing some of the extremist talk from candidates like Sharron Angle and Rand Paul get some WTF traction, and that has to have an impact on the independents; they are by and large repelled by ideology and vote based on practicality. It’s hard to imagine them getting on board with some of the batshittery being put out there by some candidates. I find it hard to believe that a candidate who talks about “Second Amendment solutions” or who holds a seance with George Washington is going to rally any large group of voters besides the ones who haven’t been taking their proper medications.