Barack Obama won the Presidency in large part by demonizing Washington DC — even though his own party had controlled Congress for the previous two years. Now that Democrats control all of the elected branches of government, they may have expected Obama to lighten up a bit on his habitual casting of the Beltway as villain. Instead, to their consternation, Obama continues to act like an outsider on the campaign trail despite his status as the ultimate insider, and Congressional leadership would like him to stop:
President Barack Obama’s Washington-bashing could boomerang on his party in Congress if he’s not careful, House Democratic leaders have warned White House senior adviser David Axelrod.
The fear — raised by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, campaign chief Chris Van Hollen and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn in a closed-door meeting Thursday — is that Democrats have more to lose if anti-Washington sentiment is not directed at one party or the other.
“If the president is going to go out and talk about how Washington’s broken, he’s got to include a strong contrast with congressional Republicans, or else we’re going to get blamed for it,” one meeting participant said later.
But Axelrod gave no indication that he plans to alter the president’s course, sources told POLITICO. White House aides did not reply to requests for comment.
Why does Obama still attack DC even though his party controls it? It’s not about 2010:
House leaders’ concerns over the president’s criticism of “Washington” or “Congress” rather than the GOP appear to reflect anxiety about the possibility that Obama’s positioning for the 2012 election may come at the expense of Democratic congressional seats this fall.
They think Obama wants to throw them under the bus in order to run as an outsider again in 2012. The White House’s political team, headed by Axelrod, understands the anti-incumbent mood of the electorate. They want to use it to their own gain rather than push back against it and get buried by a midterm that looks to be a tidal wave against Democrats. In briefer terms, they want to bend rather than break in 2010 and live to fight again in the re-election cycle.
This follows the fears of some House Democrats who wondered whether Obama deliberately forced them into tough votes in order to sacrifice them for his re-election purposes. Had Obama waited for 2011 on ObamaCare, Democrats could have run with immigration reform in 2010 or 2009 and split the GOP. They would almost certainly have lost some seats in the House, but perhaps not enough to lose the majority. If they get wiped out in 2010, though, Obama can blame Republicans for obstructionism in 2012 — which will fit into his consistent rhetorical campaign against Washington DC.
It seems that Obama has no hope of holding the House, but instead sees plenty of change in Congress after the midterms.