Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ben Smith: "Obama's surrender on outside spending"

President Obama doesn't have the same relationship his predecessors cultivated with donors. | Reuters

Ben Smith:
Democrats enter the home stretch of the 2010 elections complaining vocally about the flood of Republican money, much of it anonymous, pounding their candidates.

But as the White House points the finger at outside Republican groups, many Democrats point the finger back at the White House, which dismantled the Democratic Party's own outside infrastructure in 2008 and never tried to rebuild it.

The blame certainly isn't President Obama's alone. The rich Democrats who would traditionally give to such groups are - like Democrats at large - demoralized, particularly by the defeat of climate change legislation. They're disheartened by the conservative revival. And they're resigned to a Republican victory in November.

But it's also easy to underestimate the president's ability to increase the flow of cash to Democrat-friendly groups, had he chosen to do so. Instead, Obama's choice has been unilateral disarmament.

To the White House, that posture is a mark of the purity of the presidential brand, and of Obama's consistency. "Throughout his 2008 campaign, the President vowed to change business as usual in Washington and take on some of the tough challenges that politicians in Washington had put off for too long," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. "We're pleased to have made so much progress on these priorities — from Wall Street reform to health care reform - while staying true to the values and vision that earned the enthusiastic support of so many Democrats and Republicans during the campaign."
Democrats say it's probably too late to reverse the 2010 mismatch, but they have already begun to consider 2012. Some see an opening in the White House's condemnation of anonymous money. A new focus on transparency could allow Obama to relent on big, disclosed checks.

Steve Rosenthal, a Democratic consultant who played a central role in the 2004 effort, said the party needs to find a way to replicate that strategy.

"We need to set up something on our side again for 2012 that will basically do what we did in '04 and what Rove and his crowd did in 2010," he said. "We can't go into 2012 and be caught with our pants down the way we were in this election." MORE...
Howie P.S.: More Ben Smith:
Do other appointees feel this way? That they wish WH had dispatched them to the field?

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