The White House deployed its top guns this weekend to lobby on behalf of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, enlisting Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, National Economic Council Chair Larry Summers and Senior Adviser David Axelrod in a day-long full-court press of calling and contacting Senators and their staffs in an effort to make sure the re-confirmation of the Fed chairman doesn't fail.
The latest round of appeals by the administration follow a series of check-in calls by President Obama himself to review the status of the Bernanke re-confirmation. The president has said he is confident the vote is on schedule and will result in re-confirmation of Bernanke.
The Bernanke re-confirmation is being pitched as a vote in favor of Obama's economic agenda as well as a means by which to give big manufacturers, software companies and retailers a boost of confidence. Many of these companies fear a defeat of Bernanke could trigger a stock market slump of unknown duration and severity - just the kind of uncertainty the firms and the economy as a whole, team Obama's been arguing, the sluggish economy must avoid.
The White House knows Democrats want to cast a "I hear your anger" vote but are lobbying hard against using Bernanke a a proxy for voters' economic frustrations.
One member of the Obama economic team says, "It's a long time until the election. There will be plenty of opportunities to show you are on the side of the people."
What provoked the White House effort was the unwillingness of Democrats and Republicans to publicly declare their support for Bernanke.
"I think you'll start seeing some people come out of the woodwork," one official said.
Politics complicate Bernanke's future on the Republican side as well. The White House knows Republicans see a pro-Bernanke vote as tougher for Democrats, due to bailout blues, generalized economic "anger" and Bernanke's history as former President Bush's choice to lead the Federal Reserve. Some Democrats wonder if Republicans were keeping their pro-Bernanke vote artificially low to flush more Democrats out to back Bernanke. The White House is re-doubling efforts to check the status of Republican support and will closely monitor Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell's comments about Bernanke on the Sunday talk shows.
Lastly, the overall strategy is focused on securing the 60 votes necessary to block a filibuster, should one arise. The White House appears willing to let some Democrats walk after obtaining 60 votes, thereby settling for a vote on re-confirmation closer to the 51 vote minimum for passage. In order to reach the 51 vote total, 50 Senators would have to vote for Bernanke and Vice President Biden, in his role as President of the Senate, would cast the final vote.