Per the Associated Press, Obama’s chief political strategist David Axelrod explained, “independents are disgusted with everyone involved the loud partisan squabbling over the debt limit.”
The simple takeaway: Washington dysfunction is politically damaging to the “post-partisan” Obama, whereas widely reported bipartisan legislative accomplishments have the opposite effect.
Of course this is not an exhaustive analysis, but the President’s recent actions suggest his political advisors now hold the same view.
After taking a sequester-related polling hit – even Joe Biden’s former economic advisor Jared Bernstein acknowledged the “White House may have overplayed its hand on this point” – Obama realized he could not go it alone. Rather than being drenched in the stench of Washington dysfunction he began his GOP charm offensive.
Why charm the GOP?
The Los Angeles Times reported, “Administration officials argued it was more than [a show], saying the president wants to reestablish trust and improve communication.” Trust, of course is key to any deal; and a deal is what Obama desperately wants.
For Obama, a deal is heads he wins, tails Republicans lose. Not only will his poll numbers increase, but it also has the potential to weaken his political adversaries. Any Republican who votes for a grand bargain littered with tax increases is likely to encounter significant primary opposition. At the very least, that Republican will have to use resources to repel a challenge from the right and will limp into a general election fight against a well-funded Democrat.
Obama and his team understand this. They also understand Republicans have a very myopic view of Hispanics and immigration, which David Plouffe, the genius behind Obama’s 2008 election, was kind enough to say on the record:
“And by the way: the bigger problem they’ve got with Latinos isn’t immigration. It’s their economic policies and health care. The group that supported the president’s health care bill the most? Latinos.”
Before Republicans resume negotiations with the President, they need to have an accurate read of the political playing field. Right now, Team Obama is selling some “particularly impressed” GOP lawmakers a blueprint to surrendering the Speaker’s gavel to Pelosi.