Power Play Update: What Happened to Firing Up the Base?

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Beltway gossip hounds are poring over new details from an inside-the-White-House account of trouble and turmoil in the Obama administration, but the election effect of the piece is likely to be a further deflation of Democratic enthusiasm.

Washington is agog over the blockbuster New York Times Magazine piece that details the making of "Obama 2.0."

Most of the conversation is over admissions from President Obama that he now realizes that "there's no such thing as shovel-ready projects" and that he should have allowed Republicans to include more tax cuts into the president's stimulus plan last year.

Obama tells writer Peter Baker that his administration lost the message war with Republicans and allowed himself to be portrayed as "the same old tax-and-spend Democrat" and blamed himself for a "perverse pride" in his administration for pushing unpopular initiatives while neglecting "marketing and P.R. and public opinion."

It all plays into a narrative that old Obama team was, as a staffer told Baker, "not arrogant, but over-confident."

The piece is loaded with tidbits that set Beltway types salivating, like the first lady's assessment that the president doesn't really like the well-appointed rusticism of the presidential retreat at Camp David.

Conservatives will have a field day zinging the president for making rookie mistakes and hubristic tendencies.

But for the upcoming elections, the consequences from the piece are probably mostly on the left. The same left that the administration has spent months trying to rev up.

The takeaway points for liberals are that Obama plans to work more closely with Republicans in the second half of his term and that he is preparing himself for a monster defeat for the Democratic Party in three weeks.

When a Democrat hears that Obama is reading up on Bill Clinton to see how Bubba dealt with the drubbing of 1994 and predicts that he can force Republicans to the bargaining table next year, it sounds an awful lot like a man expecting a wipe out.

For the White House to participate in what is essentially a post-mortem piece on a political failure sends a clear signal to Democratic insiders that the White House is taking their defeat for granted.

Power Play has suggested many times before that Obama's post-election problems will relate more to dealing with embittered moderates and disappointed liberals in the Democratic caucus than battling Republicans. This pre-election navel-gazing will not help that trend.

For Democratic politicians who have suffered massive political damage for pushing forward the Obama agenda even when voters said no, this story will reinforce a growing sentiment in the party that Obama takes care of Obama first.

And for base voters whom Team Obama was hoping to get back to the polls, word that even a Democratic hold in Congress means two long years of implementation of a complex and generally unpopular 2009-2010 agenda and not further advances for their cause, this provides yet another reason to stay home.