March 16, 2010

Presidential Bullying Takes On A Weaker Tone

The President, in an effort to strong arm Congressional Democrats on the fence into voting for his health care agenda, has threatened to withdraw support for those who don't support it.  Meaning, he's not going to do fundraisers for them for their re-election bids.  The whole aspect of Presidential bullying is interesting given the dynamics of the health care debate.  The fight isn't going his way - he started running into trouble during the town hall meetings last summer (the earlier Tea Party issues were not focused specifically on health care).  He then ran into trouble with the growing protests culminating in the September 12th march on Washington D.C. that despite the mainstream media's attempt to downplay, was a massive display of discontent.  And then off-year elections in New Jersey, Virginia and ultimately Massachusetts were real gut punches.

So the President is the midst of a desperate attempt to save his agenda, has resorted to Chicago style politics.  He's trying to strong arm Democrats into supporting him;
The president will refuse to make fund-raising visits during November elections to any district whose representative has not backed the bill.
A one-night presidential appearance can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds which would otherwise take months to accumulate through cold-calling by campaign volunteers.

Mr Obama's threat came as the year-long debate over his signature domestic policy entered its final week. 
Mr Obama is personally telephoning congressmen who are still on the fence this week, in between several personal appearances devoted toward swinging public opinion.
The problem with strong arming someone is that you need to have a strong arm. The President's arm is clearly getting weaker. Notice he didn't threaten to not campaign for them? A year ago the Obama brand campaigning for you would have been a huge benefit, now - not so much. He's diminished to the point of not doing fundraisers. Not that he probably couldn't bring in big bucks for candidates, I'm sure he still has revenue generating power. But how much good does revenue do when you have a public, critically opposed to legislation and paying close attention to who votes which way. Revenue can't always overcome a disconsolate electorate. I'm not sure how effective this threat will be for the President, but it seems to me like he's pushing at this point because he no longer has a choice.

I wouldn't be surprised if the President is spent - politically and personally. I mentioned above the off year elections were like a gut punch.  The President is starting to remind me of an exhausted prize fighter waiting for the bell to ring on the final round because he thinks he has a shot at winning on a split decision.  He may indeed have, but if you look at most of the judges' score cards, it looks like he needs a knockout to win it, and what he just offered was a weak left jab.

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