Will GM be Obama's Katrina?

But Republicans see in GM a chance for their party to come out with a unified message — a confidence grounded in the conservative belief that government involvement in private industry always spells disaster. And GM’s long history of financial problems — even in more prosperous times — also makes Republicans see the company as a big albatross around Obama’s neck.

“This is somewhere in between Baghdad and fixing the flood in Louisiana,” Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said, comparing the GM decision to major stumbles by former President George W. Bush. Obama “has decided to take this over. He now owns it.”

The strategy is not without risk: If the economy rebounds, Obama gets credit, and Republicans look like they were rooting for failure.

“If the economy improves, then the GM bailout is a political winner for Obama,” said longtime GOP consultant Dan Schnur, who heads the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. “It becomes hard to argue against any individual component of the recovery plan.”