President Obama plans to step up his attacks on an unpopular Congress in 2012, making his offensive against Republicans the central component of his re-election strategy, according to The New York Times and The Washington Post. The approach worked in the recent standoff over the payroll tax cut. After being hammered by the president to accept a two-month extension of the tax holiday, House Republicans eventually bowed under intense public pressure. Will blaming the GOP for Washington's partisan gridlock pay off for Obama in November, too?
Yes. This is smart politics: For a president struggling in the polls, says Josh Feldman at Mediaite, "running against an even more unpopular Congress could be a winning strategy." The same plan paid off for Harry Truman in 1948, when his attacks on a "do-nothing Congress" helped snag him a surprise victory over Thomas Dewey. Today, Obama is railing against Congress for failing to pass his jobs bill, forcing the president to implement parts of it via executive order. The perception: Obama is fighting for regular Americans while his political rivals have "dropped the ball."
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Actually, this strategy will fail: The Truman parallel is flawed, says the Washington Examiner in an editorial. Truman faced GOP majorities in both the House and the Senate. During Obama's tenure, however, "it's been the Democratic Senate, not the Republican House, that has blocked passage of bills that provided common-sense ways to get the economy growing again." And let's not forget, Congress has actually enacted most of Obama's agenda. The problem is Obama's agenda has been a "colossal bust."
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Obama's approach may work. But it's risky, too: Obama's "offensive against Republicans in Congress has paid dividends" so far, says E.J. Dionne Jr. in The Washington Post. "Voters seem inclined to blame Washington's dysfunction on the GOP, not on a president they still rather like." But it also reminds Obama's supporters of their "disappointment over his failure to confront the Republicans early enough and hard enough." Obama's hope-and-change strategy has given way to a "messy reality": The president is "a mere mortal" stifled by an intransigent Congress. That may not leave the base fired up and ready to go.
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