If Barack Obama wants Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker of the House in 2015, he needs to strike a grand bargain with his political adversaries – congressional Republicans.
Of course, conventional wisdom holds just the opposite; in fact, President Obama told House Republicans last week he is not focused on 2014 politics. According to reports, he said, “If I truly were interested in defeating you guys in 2014, then I’d want to use immigration as a wedge issue, not try to reach a deal; I’d want to demagogue Medicare and Social Security cuts, rather than agree to cut them.”
NBC’s First Read reported one member of the “legislating wing of the House GOP” was “particularly impressed” by Obama’s logic. Allow me to explain to this naïve congressman why the best political play for Obama and congressional Democrats is to cut a deal.
Example #1: December 2010 Tax Deal
Throughout the summer and fall of 2010, Obama was upside down in the polls and the Tea Party wave swept Pelosi from the speakership. Just before Christmas, Obama and congressional Republicans reached a deal to extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. By the beginning of 2011, Obama’s poll numbers had rebounded; he was in positive territory for the first time in nearly six months.
Under the January 3, 2011 headline “Obama Job Approval Reaches 50% for First Time Since Spring,” Gallup explained:
“The latest numbers also come at a time when the president was on vacation in Hawaii and out of the political spotlight, following a highly publicized pre-Christmas session with Congress that resulted in the passage of several major pieces of legislation.”
As Charles Krauthammer sagely observed, “the bipartisan nature of the tax deal instantly repositioned Obama to the center.”
Example #2: August 2011 Debt Deal
By June 2011, Gallup reported Obama’s bin Laden bounce had subsided, coinciding “with an increase in Americans' pessimism about the economy.” The debt ceiling debt, which played out to varying degrees throughout the summer, continued to take a toll on Obama’s approval rating. By mid-August, Obama’s disapproval stood at 52%. Gallup explained:
“In the current situation, it is reasonable to assume that several events of the last few weeks have played a part in depressing the public's approval of Obama. These include the widespread public disapproval of the way Washington handled the debt crisis, a substantial drop in the public's confidence in the economy, and last week's gyrations in the stock market.” [emphasis added]