John Harris of Politico observes that Obama is in new, uncharted territory: “With the big-bang strategy officially a failure, Obama’s speech revealed in real-time a president groping for a new and more effective one. The speech was woven with frequent acknowledgements that the laws of political gravity applied to him after all.” Well, that — and a deep and abiding desire to pass the buck (e.g., to Congress, to “special interests”). On his signature domestic issue, he has left a void and much confusion. He urged Congress to keep at it, but to what end and when wasn’t clear:
Obama offered no clarity at all on exactly when or how this would happen after the stalemate caused by the Republican capture of Ted Kennedy’s former Senate seat in Massachusetts. His tepid rallying cry: “As temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we’ve proposed.”
There is understandably concern in the Democratic ranks. What are they to do now? They are going to have to run on something, after all. Yet their electoral position continues to deteriorate. The Cook Political Report’s e-mail tells us:
In the districts of Democratic Reps. Baron Hill (IN-09), Mark Schauer (MI-07), Dina Titus (NV-03), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), and Glenn Nye (VA-02), we no longer see the incumbent Democrats as clear favorites for reelection. We now rate 50 Democratic-held seats as Lean Democratic or more vulnerable, including 20 Democratic seats in the Toss Up column. Republicans need to pick up 40 seats to take back the House majority.
Perhaps the Democrats will figure it out in time, but it is far from clear what signature issue or issues will take the place of health care. The president made many small suggestions ill-suited to tackle a very big problem — high unemployment. Unless he can make headway on that big issue and provide direction to his party, we will see, I suspect, further erosion of support for Democrats who have now acquired a dual and electorally disastrous reputation. Conservatives and independents consider them too liberal and irresponsible; their base finds them inept. That’s not a recipe for holding majority control of both houses.