-- The number of times since 1865 that a second-term president saw his party make midterm gains in Congress, 1998.
President Obama has worked for two weeks to set up his meetings with congressional Democrats, but are they ready to go cliff diving with him one more time?
With 2014 shaping up as a stormy sea for Democrats, Obama’s invitation to take the plunge isn’t so appealing.
Obama’s speeches in Illinois, Missouri, Florida and Tennessee were billed as rallying the public to Obamanomics. But Obama was really trying to rally his team back in Washington, both in Congress and in the press. It was his opening bid in the coming battles over debt, spending and health care. Obama was reminding the press and his party that they should be discussing his dead-letter proposals for higher taxes and spending rather than “phony scandals.”
After six months of stalemate, Obama is trying to convince the blue team that just a little more gridlock will cause Republicans to break and yield the midterm victories and momentum needed to allow his second-term agenda to become relevant. To borrow a phrase: The audacity of nope.
As he heads to the Hill today, Obama is asking Democrats to stand firm for gridlock one more time. As evidenced by his new definition of “grand bargain,” Obama is urging his fellow Democrats to mirror the hidebound intransigency of which he accuses Republicans.
But as Democratic lawmakers listen to the president today again call for them to gird for gridlock, the tickertape running through their minds will be telling them a different story – Real Clear Politics Presidential Job Approval Average: 44.9 percent; Second Quarter GDP growth: 1.7 percent; Obamacare average approval : 39.7 percent; Democracy Corps’ Generic Congressional Ballot: GOP +1 percent ; Georgia seeks Obamacare exemption citing premium explosion; etc.
For example, while the president is talking, a caravan of West Virginia Democrats will be making the rounds on the Hill pleading with their fellow Democrats to help them block Obama’s coal crackdown. Meantime, Democratic union boosters are begging for relief from Obama’s health law. Across the way, civil libertarians are agonizing over Obama’s amazing expansion of domestic surveillance. And all the while, Republicans are finding new ways to highlight abuses at the IRS and tie them to Obama’s unpopular health law.
With history suggesting and polls showing big trouble for Democrats next year, Obama’s call for radical inaction will not find many fans among the remaining moderate Democrats. Obama is selling the same thing to Democrats that Rand Paul and others are selling to Republicans: lay out your principles, jump off the cliff and then take your case to voters.
As Ron Fournier describes it today at National Journal, calling it White Flag Syndrome: “To say the situation is intractable seems akin to waving a white flag over a polarized capital: Republicans suck. We can't deal with them. Let's quit.”
Of course, Obama has the upper hand here since he has veto power over any deals. The Democratic renegades looking to make peace and strike a large-scale deal with Republicans can’t do so since everyone knows Obama is past negotiating and explicitly explains that he no longer much cares about his opponents’ positions.
And his message to Democrats in reviving and in some cases intensifying an ideologically pure fiscal and economic message is that he has no intention of altering that. He is building his fallout shelter for the coming fiscal debate and telling his fellows that they would do well to get inside before it starts coming down.
And while he leaves his party little choice but to stay away from the negotiating table, that’s not to say they won’t make sure he bears the blame. Centrist Democrats, especially those facing tough races next year, will stand and applaud for their president but will soon enough be running ads and making remarks distancing themselves from the president.
Obama will offer strong support for radical inaction and more brinksmanship today, arguing that the Republicans and the political process are unworthy of engagement. But for many in his audiences today, the voices of their pollsters and consultants will echo louder.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“How many times has [President Obama] used the word "jump start"? I thought the idea of the '09 stimulus, over $800 billion, was to jump start the economy. At a certain point, every time you say you want to re-jump start, it implies the past ones are a failure.”
-- 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. 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 digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace." He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.