Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Is Obama's New Combative Game Too Little Too Late?

With the 2012 election still 13 months away, it seems like Barack Obama is finally waking up and starting to act like he should have been doing from day one of his presidency or at least soon after the GOP members of Congress made it clear they were not going to play ball with him. In the meantime, rank and file Democrats have become largely demoralized and convinced in many cases that Obama and the Democrats are incompetent in countering the GOP propaganda machine and never ending Christianist/Tea Party lies. With control of the Virginia Senate - the sole bulwark against the worse policies of the GOP - up for grabs a month from now, the Democrat apathy is frighteningly similar to that in 2009 which allowed Taliban Bob McDonnell and Ken Kookinelli to win their state wide offices. It's hard to be enthused when you don't even feel the Democrats are out there fighting the forces of ignorance and evil in the GOP. The result? According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, only 58 percent of Democrats in believe that Obama will be reelected. What's sad, it's largely because of Obama's self inflicted wounds. The Washington Post looks at Obama's belated more confrontational behavior. Here are excerpts:

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.

In Texas on Tuesday, the president went after a leading Republican by name: “Yesterday the Republican majority leader in Congress, Eric Cantor, said that right now he won’t even let this jobs bill have a vote in the House of Representatives,” Obama said. “I would like Mr. Cantor to come here to Dallas and explain what exactly in this jobs bill does he not believe in, what exactly he is opposed to. Does he not believe in rebuilding America’s roads and bridges? Does he not believe in tax breaks for small businesses or efforts to help our veterans?”

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.

The president’s problems, even within his own party, remain formidable; only 58 percent of Democrats in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll believe that he will be reelected. Many supporters remain skeptical of his tendency to seek compromise with Republicans, and recently he angered some black supporters by urging them to stop complaining. Still, in recent weeks, Obama has begun to blunt some of the criticism among Democrats that he is not up for the fight.

[T]he only good news for Obama relates to his jobs plan and his Republican opposition. An even higher percentage of poll respondents, about 76 percent, say they disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are handling the economy. Given that dubious advantage, the president may have few options other than to attack.

The president’s jobs plan is one remaining bright spot for him. A narrow majority in the poll supports the package. Nearly six in 10 say Obama’s plan would help improve the unemployment situation.

Obama has begun to frame the 2012 contest as a referendum on values. . . . The president also has drawn a values contrast with Republicans over how to pay for his jobs plan, which features a “Buffett rule” that would eliminate some tax loopholes for people earning more than $200,000 a year. Republicans have labeled Obama’s approach “class warfare,” a term the president has embraced — with a twist.

“You’re already hearing the Republicans in Congress dusting off the old talking points,” Obama told New York donors two weeks ago. “You know what? If asking a billionaire to pay the same rate as a plumber or a teacher makes me a warrior for the middle class, I wear that charge as a badge of honor.”

Neera Tanden, a former Obama administration official, said the president tried to position himself as the “adult in the room” during the debt fight, remaining above the partisan fray in hopes of striking a “grand bargain.” The strategy collapsed after House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) balked under pressure from the tea party and the White House agreed to cut spending by $900 billion without raising taxes.

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