While the president will not directly confront the Republican nominee until well into next year, his advisers believe that the next three months are critical to improving his standing and reversing his downward trajectory. He is frustrated — particularly at Republicans on Capitol Hill, but also at some of his own aides, according to people who have spoken to him recently — that he has been unable to rise above the morass of Washington and recapture the spirit that helped him win election.
The frustration has led to internal divisions among some advisers over the scope of his economic address to a joint session of Congress on Thursday night. The president intends to offer at least some progressive proposals to help regain a fighting posture that he has not had since the health care debate, but a provision is also being discussed to place a new moratorium on some regulations that affect the economy, excluding health care and financial rules. The proposals are likely to infuriate an already unhappy Democratic base.
“He’s erred on the side of trying to reason with unreasonable people, which seems to be the wrong strategy,” said Andy Stern, the former president of the Service Employees International Union, who has advised the White House and is a senior fellow at Georgetown University. “There is not a clear understanding in most people’s minds of what is his philosophy. In Republicans there is a clear understanding.”