The Obama White House has been in a frenzy of activity since last Tuesday night when Republican Scott Brown won the special election for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts.
The very next morning, President Obama declared war on the big banks by announcing what the Agence France-Presse (AFP) called, "the largest regulatory crackdown on US financial institutions since the 1930s, would ban the banks from using taxpayers' money to engage in proprietary trading or operating hedge funds and private equity funds."
This had the effect of (a) Changing the debate from how the result in Massachusetts made Democrats in general and the President in particular, look weak (he had campaigned there on the previous Sunday); (b) Allowing the White House to proclaim Obama America's Populist-in-Chief; and (c) Driving the stock markets into the ground.
According to reporters Renae Merle and Tomoeh Murakami Tse writing in the Washington Post yesterday,
"By Friday's closing bell on the stock exchange floor, the Dow Jones industrial average had plunged 4 percent over four days. And in a move reminiscent of the depths of the financial crisis, investors piled into government bonds, seeking cover from the turbulence."
The spitting and fussing among Democrats as to who knew what about the race in Massachusetts, when they knew it, and what they did about it was so much fun to watch, I actually bought popcorn to eat as I watched the cable chat shows.
On Saturday, the WashPost's Chris Cillizza reported that former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe was coming on board as a non-official political advisor to make some sense of how the Washington Democrats deal with House, Senate and Governor's races in November.
According to the Atlantic's Mark Ambinder:
Plouffe doesn't report to David Axelrod, or Jim Messina, the deputy White House chief of staff, or to Jen O'Malley Dillon, the DNC executive director or to Gov. Tim Kaine, the DNC chairman, or to Patrick Gaspard, the political director. He reports to the President. Informally. But this informal channel is Plouffe's and Plouffe's alone.Golly, Buffalo Bob! Remember back during the campaign for President when Sen. Obama said he would remove the "perpetual campaign" apparatus from the White House?
The polling out of Massachusetts tells me that it the result was not a failure of politics, but a failure of policy by the White House and its allies on Capitol Hill.
A poll done for the AFL-CIO after the election showed that union families voted for the Republican, Brown, by a margin of 49-46 percent. True, Brown only carried union households by three percentage points, but he should have LOST that bloc by 40 percentage points.
Why? According to Democratic pollster Celinda Lake on CNN's State of the Union program yesterday, it's because they don't like the taxing of so-called "Cadillac health plans" which includes many plans negotiated by unions for their members.
A poll done by the Washington Post showed that the health care issue was "Extremely" or "Very" important for 93 percent of voters who cast their ballot for Brown.
Also on the health care issue, 65 percent of Brown voters thought they would be worse off if the Congress passed and the President signed a health care reform bill. Only 38 percent of those who voted for the Democrat thought they would be better off. Fully half of Coakley's voters said it wouldn't make much difference.
The next two most important issues for Brown voters were "jobs and the economy" (91 percent) and "The way Washington is working" (90 percent).
For nearly half the voters (48 percent) Barack Obama was not a factor in deciding their vote. They just didn't care.
This may be the earliest point in history that a President has stood on the brink of being a lame duck: 364 days into his Administration.
Adding a political operative to the inner circle of the White House will not help. It misses the essential point: Starting in November when the GOP won the Governors' mansions in New Jersey and Virginia it has been clear that the Obama/Reid/Pelosi style and substance were not resonating with the voting public.
The result in Massachusetts last Tuesday showed that for yet another segment of the population which has had the opportunity to express itself at the ballot box, Obama's policies have diminished from a lack of resonance to active dissonance.
Obama can tinker with the political shop all he wants, but to misquote my neighbor James Carville: It's the policies, stupid.