May 3, 2010

The Obama strategy: simmer, let cool, serve.

There has to be no other explanation for the Obama approach to the mid-term elections. The whole notion that he wanted Democrats to fall on their swords for him, the Great One Term President, makes little sense. Does anyone really believe that his sole issue was health care reform? Cap and trade hasn't passed. Immigration reform is stirring up and the long march towards socialism that started as a sprint still has a long way to go. In other words - he can't be done. Not yet.

That means he still needs Democrats in Congress or he will be the longest sitting lame duck President on record. Having stirred the conservative base into a froth, what's President Obama's recipe for a successful mid-term election?

First he probably doesn't need to define success as a five star dish. The Democrats have a sizable cushion so the bar for success is looking like it's more about limiting the losses than anything else. At this point a 20 seat loss in Congress and 5 seats in the Senate for Democrats will amount to a victory. So how is President Obama planning to get there? Very carefully.

The President is trying to make a perfect soufflé here. The recipe calls for heating up conservatives early on - hence the aggressive agenda out of the gate. The conservatives have heated up. A lot. Far more than the President expected. The burner was set way too high and the issues have boiled over. But make no mistake - while the recipe might have been messed up a little, the dish isn't lost yet.

Meanwhile on the other burner, his own base, he has to keep hot. That was easy to do in 2008 but not so now. The kitchen is theirs and what becomes the focal point is not what the President intends to make but what he has or hasn't made already. The main dish - health care - while really only half baked - is already on the table. But Democrats are a coalition of disparate groups. They each want their own dish in the buffet - immigration reform, green jobs, union special treatment, liberal education reform, the choice crowd issue to name a few, all are eagerly awaited dishes. Conservatives meanwhile have coalesced around one issue - sanity. Fiscal, international, rule of law, common sense sanity. So Obama’s attention is necessarily turned back to the main burner.

It would seem impossible for the President to rescue the meal. If Gordon Ramsey were to see this gastronomic mess, the diatribe would be priceless.

Remember the bar isn't set too high. And the President I think has a plan. While indeed trying to keep the liberal base hot, it's almost secondary to the main effort. Letting conservatives simmer a bit and then cool down. Remember the fury of some daily new affront to America from the administration and/or Congressional Democrats last year? Compare that to now. After the frustration over health care, the cooling has started.

Take a look around at the news. Sure, stuff is going on - an oil spill, an SUV bomb in New York and a volcano. These are indeed news stories with some political implications. But they are not politically driven (truck bomb included - I'm referring to driven by Democrat or Republican agenda items).

Summer is low season for political news. Expect the President to try to slip through a bunch of 'low' level public interest items while the American people are on vacation. From the next Supreme Court Justice nominee to the special panel or commission on drilling, everything will be downgraded, put on hold or sneaked through under cover of people gone camping. We are witnessing the beginning of the "let cool" phase. If his strategy pans out, conservatives will end up getting served - our own electoral heads.

Can you really stay angry from now until November? That's tough. True to the recipe, the President went from heat to simmer to stand and let cool. Yes, the bottom of the soufflé is burnt but the bar for success isn't that high. The President is hoping 2% of you as conservatives don't bother. It will be helped along by Daily Kos polls showing the GOP doing well everywhere. Your complacency is his cooling phase.

The lesson here is not to stay angry, but rather stay engaged, stay informed and keep informing others. Just because the news cycle has slowed doesn't mean that anything over the next 6 months is any less important than over the last 15. In order to counter the Obama soufflé, conservatives need a recipe of their own. Something over low heat with a continuous thickening of resolve. We don't want to burn our dish either. Unlike the Democrats, our dish should be ready to serve in 2012 and 2010 offering only a taste test of the final dish. Sure, that taste test should be at a minimum, flavored to 40/9 (Congress and Senate gains). And that's why it's important to ensure that our burner doesn't flame out. We don't want our taste test leaving a bitter taste in our mouths.

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