It’s fun watching Obama nurse his wounded ego while Democrat candidates don political hazmat suits and treat him like a virus. The Washington Post has some choice quotes from inside the White House bunker:
“I’ve always believed that it’s not an effective strategy to run against a president of your own party, unless you’ve been actively opposed to that president,” said David Axelrod, who was Obama’s top political strategist in his two presidential campaigns and a senior adviser in his White House. “You’re going to get tagged with it anyway.”
With so many Democrats trying to suggest a distance from Obama that doesn’t exist, Axelrod added, it’s natural for the president and his team “to be a little frustrated.”
Another senior Democrat who advises the White House, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the current feeling among Obama and his aides is “exasperation.”
“He doesn’t think they have any reason to run away from him,” the adviser said. “He thinks there is a strong message there.”
The president has hinted at the tension in recent remarks. “Make no mistake, these policies are on the ballot, every single one of them,” Obama said earlier this month. He restated the obvious a few weeks later in a radio interview when he said of the Democratic senators who are struggling this year: “The bottom line is . . . these are all folks who vote with me; they have supported my agenda in Congress.”
Those comments spawned a barrage of Republican attack ads and a bout of frustration with Obama among Democrats at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Even Axelrod deemed the first one “a mistake,” telling NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “I wouldn’t put that line in there.”
I happen to think Axelrod is right about this… but even he had to admit that Obama re-enacting Jack Nicholson’s famous scene from “A Few Good Men” and bellowing “you’re damn RIGHT I ordered the Code Red on America!” was a bit much. It’s true that running away from a President is very difficult; he is the titular head of his party. There’s only so much distance that can be gained from him… especially when the Democrat Party spent the past couple of years defending Obama’s notion of Congress as a ceremonial rubber stamp for the all-powerful imperial President. Watching faker-than-fake Democrats posture as political adversaries of their own god-king is freaking hilarious. (It would be funnier if there weren’t so many purple-state voters willing to buy it, or at least pretend that they buy it, even after Democrat campaign staff gets caught on undercover video admitting their “enemy of Obama” posturing is just a “lying game.”)
Obama lashing back at the distance Democrats – even as polls like the one you cited measure just how toxic he is on the campaign trail – is not just an expression of his planet-sized ego. He and his team of political gremlins are also convinced it would have been wiser for Democrats to take the polling hit among independents and soft Democrat voters by embracing him, because the gains in turnout from pumped-up Obama loyalists would be worth it. They might be right about that.
As an academic discussion of political strategy, it’s an interesting subject. In a highly polarized electorate, when the political center has been forcibly dragged to the Left and produced spirited popular resistance, are there really a lot of “independents” left to sway by pretending you don’t agree with the deeply unpopular leader of your party? Is anybody really willing to believe that, or are the supporters of distance Democrats pretending to believe their guys and gals won’t do Obama’s bidding 90% of the time because they accept a conventional political wisdom about the importance of appealing to moderates that might have passed its expiration date? Are there truly a lot of people swayed to vote for Democrat X by the hope they’re going to stand firm against the Sun King when they reach Washington?