"Already Back on the Trail"?

This morning, The New York Times ran on its front page a headline that jumped out at me: "Already Back on the Trail, Now to Sell a Stimulus Plan."

I don't mean to mince words, but the choice of the word "already" seems noteworthy from this vantage. The word "already" seems to suggest that the editors at The Times believe it to be interesting and perhaps even surprising that just three weeks into his presidency, Barack Obama is already hitting the hustings to rally support for his agenda.

For better or for worse, politics is a zero-sum game. It's a rugby scrum. If one side stops pushing, it will be pushed backwards. So when the President isn't speaking to the American people, that leaves a real vacuum which is most likely to be filled by the opposition, both in the form of Republicans on Capitol Hill and the assembled punditry. And right now, most of what's being heard from the chattering class is opposition to President Obama's agenda, particularly the stimulus.

Think back to a somewhat analogous situation in the late summer of 2006, right after Ned Lamont defeated Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary. Lamont went on vacation and Lieberman went on the attack -- and when the dust settled, a general election that should have been winnable for Lamont became one that Lieberman won fairly handily.

So it should come as little surprise that Barack Obama is going back to one of the tactics he's best at -- speaking directly to the American people. If anything, the question should be why it took three weeks rather than why it's "already" happening three weeks into the administration.

Tags: Obama Administration (all tags)



Re: "Already Back on the Trail"?

Lamont was not going to win.

by MNPundit 2009-02-09 08:37AM | 0 recs
Re: "Already Back on the Trail"?

as someone who spent a little time on the ground there before the election, I believe it was eminently winnable for Lamont.

by Todd Beeton 2009-02-09 09:18AM | 0 recs
Re: "Already Back on the Trail"?

I love you guys, but that vacation thing has been blown out of proportion.  If I remember correctly, he was gone for two days (Thursday night after campaigning until Saturday) and came back to do a Sunday show.

And he basically did so under doctors orders.  The campaign continued to run full steam ahead and attack Lieberman.  I still have the press releases and emails we sent out from that week.

Here's Ned a week after the election in New Haven giving a press conference linking Lieberman and Cheney

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coai1aI7y pA

And yes, it was probably winnable.  But it was going to be real difficult.


by Tim Tagaris 2009-02-09 09:40AM | 0 recs
Re: "Already Back on the Trail"?

Tim, you were obviously closer to it than we were, so I trust what you say.  But what I remember was not so much the vacation, as that there was a period of a few days after the primary when the word on the street was like "don't worry, leave Joe his space, the elder statesmen are going to persuade him to step aside gracefully."

In terms of counterfactuals, I wonder if there was an opportunity for Lamont to seize control of the narrative more aggressively, to try and push Lieberman out of the race rather than wait for him to step aside.  He could have started pushing this message as early as his victory speech on primary night, trying hard to shame Lieberman for failing to respect the results of the primary.

From the outside, it sorta felt like there was a reluctance to push this line of attack based on a belief that maybe Lieberman really would just step aside if no one made a big deal about it, but perhaps that isn't how it really happened.  Maybe folks inside the campaign were always 100% certain that Lieberman would run as an independent.  But I wonder, if that was the case, why there wasn't more of an effort to shame Lieberman and brand him as a sore loser.

by Steve M 2009-02-09 10:02AM | 0 recs
Re: "Already Back on the Trail"?

You are right, and those are all good questions.  I think if we had to do it again, there might have been a different victory speech and we might have found different pressure points re: getting Joe to drop -- or just recognized it wasn't going to happen.

by Tim Tagaris 2009-02-09 10:13AM | 0 recs
From my POV

and I was in Connecticut at the time, Lamont's anti-war message only went so far. He won the primary, but only with 52% and he never ran a campaign to win th eother 48% and independents supporting Lieberman.

Lieberman's incumbency and seniority help him keep the Independents and 1/3 of Democrats, and then of course he won Republicans.

The race should have immediately been pushed as Lieberman as the defacto Republican. Lamont thought he could win with only the war and he couldn't. He needed to address the issues of voters who were voting for Lieberman despite the war.

This is exactly why I do not favor primary challenges on one single issue.

by DTOzone 2009-02-09 10:16AM | 0 recs
I'm giving the Obama team a B on most of their

first week, but a C+ barely for the stimulus bill.

I agree, he didn't get out on he message soon enough, I think he wanted to let the Democrats in Congress do the work...

But I think they were unprepared for how much power folks like Ben Nelson now hold.

ONE, the MOST IMPORTANT initiative the Republicans have right now is, keep Norm Coleman funded. That one vote from Franken is HUGE at the moment.

And, two, Obama and Rahm hopefully now see the territory, and can do a better job of getting out in front of the war next time.

Cause, remember folks, if you think the Republicans felt strongly about this, WAIT till you see the Hyperbole coming for the EFCA battle.

by WashStateBlue 2009-02-09 08:51AM | 0 recs
Re: "Already Back on the Trail"?

You know when Gallup and CNN both have Obama winning the debate on the stimulus not sure how we can say he's behind the curve.

One of the more telling questions from Gallup:

"Do you approve or disapprove of the way each of the following has handled the governments efforts to pass an economic stimulus bill?"

President Obama
67% approve
25% Disapprove
8% no opinion

DEM. Congress
48% approve
42% disapprove
10% no opinion

Rep. Congress
31% approve
58% disapprove
11% no opinion

from Sullivan

Should Obama become a partisan attack-dog in response? Check out the Gallup poll Gallup. If Krugman, Yglesias and Brown are right, these polls are very wrong. Obama is winning the stimulus fight - because he seems more connected to the actual crisis people are confronting than his rivals in both parties, and more reasonable in finding a way forward.

by jsfox 2009-02-09 09:13AM | 0 recs
Re: "Already Back on the Trail"?

"Don't mean to mince words." Umm, isn't mincing words what we do? :)

by Todd Beeton 2009-02-09 09:18AM | 0 recs
Re: "Already Back on the Trail"?

Sometimes I think it's all we do ;)

by jsfox 2009-02-09 09:34AM | 0 recs


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