Last week most pundits and political junkies were aflutter over the rift between the White House and House Democrats caused by Press Secretary Robert Gibb’s comments on Meet the Press about the possibility of a Republican takeover of the House in November’s upcoming midterm elections. Despite the fact that many analysts have described Gibbs as just, “stating the obvious,” reports had House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “nuclear mad,” according to a Democratic aid, and House Democrats furious about the gaffe.
By Tuesday, Gibbs was in full back pedal mode claiming, ““I think we’ll retain the House. I was asked if there were enough seats in play, and I think there are.” And the White House spent the week pushing back against the gathering storm that Gibbs’ comments generated and quelling House Democrats’ concerns.
By yesterday, Democrats were back in a winning frame of mind, with Chris Van Hollen predicting that they would maintain a majority despite “a tough election.” On ABC’s This Week, Vice President Joe Biden even suggested that Democrats would, “surprise the heck out of everyone.”
But do the Democratic leadership’s actions speak louder than their words?
Democrats just finished what wound up being a much more grueling effort to pass financial regulation reform than perhaps a lot of people anticipated given the dismal approval ratings being afford Wall Street in recent months. And the more than year long battle for health care reform is still fresh in lawmakers’ minds despite being long since past history in the world of the twenty-four hour news cycle.
One might expect that Democrats would take a bit of a break to figure out how to turn these legislative victories into compelling and winning narratives. But one would be rather mistaken in that prediction.
Reports now have it that Senate Majority Leader Reid and the President aren’t just strategizing how to reshape proposed energy legislation to clear the Senate’s sixty voter hurdle. Reid has also vowed to carry the now badly hobbled campaign finance reform legislation across the finish line before the Senate’s August recess. And the immigration reform debate is still in full swing in the House.
The exhausting push to run up the legislative scoreboard might seem like an obvious effort to line up as many carrots as possible when Democrats do shift into campaign mode. But with a fully formed narrative about Democratic inability to stem a failing economy and Obama facing record low polling numbers and broadening discussion about a ‘failed presidency,’ the time for campaigning and narrative generation may well be right now -- if not yesterday.
The flip side to Democrats’ frantic efforts may well be that, despite the Vice President’s confidence and the Party’s gusto, Democratic leaders have finally accepted the writing on the wall and are now trying to jam through as much legislation as they can before inevitable losses remove their ability to do much else.
With the President ever the stickler for strict inner-circle discipline, one is left wondering just how off-message Gibbs was on Meet the Press. And to what degree President Obama was signalling through Gibbs what he couldn’t himself: that he can see the electoral shift coming.
In a recent post on July 19, I suggested that President Obama might not be altogether unreceptive to a Republican resurgence in the House of the Senate. Undoubtedly there were more than a few readers who scoffed at the suggestion.