Published June 12, 2012
“Well, you know, the truth of the matter is that as President of the United States, I've got a lot of responsibilities. I was supportive of Tom and have been supportive of Tom. Obviously, you know, I would have loved to have seen a different result.”
-- President Obama in an interview with WBAY, the ABC affiliate in Green Bay, Wis., explaining why he didn’t campaign for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Democratic candidate in last week’s Wisconsin recall election.
Today is a pretty typical day for President Obama: four fundraisers, a visit to a swing state and then a late arrival back at the White House.
The rest of the week looks to be pretty much the same, with a Thursday campaign speech in Ohio and some more fundraising already on the schedule.
The president is always the president, and Obama may be spending his transit time updating his kill list or haggling with his European counterparts about the next round of bailouts. But there never has been a president who, to the public eye, was more consumed so early in the year with his re-election effort.
The blitz of fundraisers and swing-state visits started nine months ago and has continued unabated. This makes his defense of his decision to shun Tom Barrett, the Democratic nominee in the Wisconsin recall vote last week, even more curious.
“I’ve got a lot of responsibilities,” Obama said in answer to a question from a reporter from Green Bay, one of a handful of swing-state journalists granted four-minute, stopwatch-timed interviews with Obama on Monday.
Those responsibilities apparently include dinners with Sarah Jessica Parker and Wall Street tycoons, but not a trip to Waukesha to help out Barrett.
On the Friday before the Wisconsin election, Obama even flew over the state as he jumped from a campaign speech and three fundraisers in Minnesota to Chicago, where he spoke at three more fundraisers. Six fundraisers in adjacent states on the same day, but no time for Barrett?
It may have been tactically smart for Obama to not associate himself with Barrett, who had been polling poorly for weeks. Certainly if Obama had campaigned for Barrett, headlines last week would have spoken of a “rebuke” for Obama. But from a strategic perspective, Obama ended up reinforcing the image of himself as politically selfish.
While Bill Clinton was out in the hustings with Barrett, Obama was raising more money for his own campaign and trying to avoid the subject. Partisans love when the leader of their party takes risks for them, and Obama declined. And to blame a busy schedule makes it even worse.
It’s one thing to tell reporters, with a wink, that all those visits to Florida, Ohio, Iowa and Pennsylvania are to talk about green energy or student loans. He could hardly say that he’s sticking taxpayers with the bill for campaign visits. But to use the same kind of excuse with members of your own party who are in on the joke is just plain cold.
This has been a persistent pattern for Obama. He’s not a team player and politics is very much a team sport.
In 2009, the president rankled Democrats when he gave slim support to gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey and Virginia and, most famously, in 2010 when he kept Martha Coakley, the Democrat running for the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, at arms length. In all of the cases, Obama operatives preempted Democratic defeats with spin about the blame belonging to weak candidates and not the president.
In 2010, Obama could have opted to barnstorm the nation in defense of the Democratic House majority. He didn’t do that but instead forecast a historic defeat for his party and laid as low as decorum would allow and prepared for a “hard pivot” after the election. House Democrats were cannon fodder trying to defend Obama’s first two years, but found that their commanding general had already retreated from the field even before the battle was over.
And in advance of another rough round of House and Senate campaigns this year, Obama’s campaign made it clear that there would be no financial rescue package for struggling down-ballot candidates.
Even when he built his administration, Obama shunned uncomfortable parts of his party.
He took his principle primary opponent and made her Secretary of State, which took her out of domestic political circulation. “Have fun in Ulan Bator, Madame Secretary!”
Obama picked one of the weakest of his primary opponents to be his vice president and then stocked his cabinet with non-threatening folks. Presidents usually try to sooth inter-party rivalries with administration appointments, but Obama just did his own thing.
The book “Team of Rivals” was very big back then. The more apt title for Obama’s new team would have been “All the President’s Men.”
Having done so little to solidify his party in the past and still antagonizing his fellow Democrats with his go-it-alone approach, Obama should not be surprised to see growing Democratic dissention.
Having had such a lousy launch to his campaign and with Democrats increasingly considering the possibility that the president may lose, Obama is getting a taste of his own medicine.
Democrats, both liberal and moderate, are casting blame on the president. When Bill Clinton and his old teammates like Steven Rattner and Ed Rendell raise eyebrows about Obama’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s work as a CEO, or when former Obama green jobs czar Van Jones rails against Obama’s unfulfilled potential, they are getting on the record with their doubts.
If Obama loses in the fall, those folks will be free to shrug their shoulders and say that it wasn’t their fault that he lost. They did warn him, after all.
It may be Obama who gets Coakleyed this time around.
The Big Number
-- Decline in the median net worth of American families since 2009 – from $126,400 to $77,300 – according to a new report from the Federal Reserve. The drop set the nation back two decades in wealth accumulation.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“How could [the national security leaks] not be coming from the White House? And how can you possibly say that the writer is saying it didn't come from the White House? Obviously it did. Who else was in the room, the pizza delivery guy? A plumber in the corner working on the sink? It had to be somebody from the president's entourage. So I think this is a real contradiction that has to be examined.”
-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com.