“In other words, their bet is on cynicism. But, Wisconsin, my bet is on you.”
-- President Obama speaking to supporters in Green Bay, Wisc.
As he winds down the longest, most expensive, most negative re-election campaign in history, President Obama is looking to close on a slightly more hopeful note. But even in his closing argument, Obama remains bound by a jaded view that has dominated his term in office.
Reprising his pitch at the Democratic National Convention, Obama is asking voters to hold on to some of their hopes from 2008 and give him more time to complete the job they sent him to Washington to do.
On a day when a flat jobs report reinforces the stagnancy of the economy, victims of an East Coast storm are digging through dumpsters for food and his administration in mired in a deepening foreign-policy scandal over an Islamist attack in Libya, Obama is looking for ways to acknowledge unhappy realities but defend his term in office.
Obama faces the worst re-election environment of any incumbent since George H.W. Bush in 1992 and has struggled to find a positive argument for his re-election. In the end, Obama has arrived back where he began more than a year ago in his unprecedented re-election drive: It would have been worse if the Republicans were in charge.
Obama’s argument is that the reason the economy has remained sputtery for so long is that congressional Republicans have blocked his efforts to repair it in the past two years.
This has been a consistent thread for Obama since his party was routed in 2010. He argues that Republicans believe Obama’s prescriptions for deficit-funded stimulus spending would work and have intentionally denied relief to struggling Americans as part of a cynical plot to force him from power.
Obama has argued that he did not use most of his time with a supermajority in Congress to enact more economic measures because he knew his window of opportunity was small and he needed to use most of his first two years on a new health-insurance entitlement because of the long-term importance of the issue.
Put simply, Obama says he foresaw how Republicans would successfully and cynically exploit the economy to win a House majority to then successfully and cynically harm the economy in a bid to block his re-election.
This is a similar rationale for why Obama spent most of his money and time in this election in character attacks on Republican challenger. When asked about unfair and untrue attacks, Obama explained, “that happens in politics.”
The argument here is that since politics is a rotten business, the president must be excused for engaging in bad practices and a negative campaign. It’s just how things are, so he did it to the other guy before the other guy did it to him.
Obama is out on the trail attacking Romney and the Republicans for cynicism in opposing his agenda and telling Americans that his plans won’t succeed. This is another common thread among the Obama Democrats: imputing bad motives onto one’s opponents.
Rather than arguing that Romney and the Republicans hold starkly different but sincere views, Obama argues that the other side holds no view at all except to gain power and will do anything, even harm the economy and endanger lives abroad, in order to obtain it.
As a candidate in 2008, Obama spoke of bipartisanship and healing. But in office, not only did he take a partisan tack, he assumed the wickedness of his rivals in advance and the susceptibility of voters to that wickedness.
In Obama’s telling, the debacle over his health law and the weak economy, were the result of his foreknowledge of defeat and despair. How did a guy with a job approval rating approaching 70 percent in his first 100 days know it would all turn out so horribly? How did he know that the only answer was to move left, dig in and prepare to torch his Republican rivals?
Obama may accuse his opponents of cynicism, but nobody has anything on the president when it comes to that subject. Here’s the American Heritage Dictionary definition: “An attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others.” That kind of sums it up.
One can only imagine the disasters that Obama foresees if he were to win re-election. Likely a Republican House and a narrower majority in the Senate for his party. Presumably, Obama’s only hope is that he will be able to break the backs of his foes with the power of a mandate behind him.
Or, given the president’s gloomy outlook, perhaps he foresees winning by a narrow, contentious margin and being a lame duck from the moment the results are in – living out four years of gridlock and intractable fights with Republicans and moderate Democrats drift away from him and his policies.
Either way, one can assume that Obama is already preparing for the worst.
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET at http:live.foxnews.com.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.