Since August, President Obama has made “running against Congress” a centerpiece of his reelection strategy, as President Truman did in 1948. But the comparison between 1948 and 2012 contains one inconvenient fact: the Senate is still controlled by the President’s own party, and that happens to be the part that is giving him the greatest trouble.
Numerous Senate Democrats – including top brass like Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and Max Baucus – have made clear they are not going to “pass this bill” without major changes. Sen. Begich, Ben Nelson, Casey, Landrieu, Webb, McCaskill and others are openly uncomfortable with defending another fat stimulus package – this time funded with the kicker of broad tax increases.
More likely, those facing tough reelection fights will smell the same danger Tester has: that President Obama’s latest jobs bill is less a real jobs program with any chance of passage than a reelection strategy that could end up pushing Obama’s remaining congressional majority – the Democrat-held Senate – over a cliff.
House Democrats fell into this trap in 2010: putting their careers on the line for Obama initiatives like “cap and trade” that had no chance of becoming law. One term later, Senate Democrats are poised to do the same for a stimulus and tax plan that has no chance of becoming law – but serves up a useful sound bite for a president “running against Congress.”
Since President Obama began launching attacks against Congress in August, congressional Democrats have awakened to the fact that Obama views them as collateral damage in his pathway to reelection – in the same way that his ambitious agenda helped wipe out dozens of their House colleagues and chairmanships last year.
Despite a long record of rubberstamping Obama’s radical big government agenda, Tester has finally decided he doesn’t want to be a casualty of Obama’s reelection stimulus.
The question is whether Tester’s reality check will extend to other Democrats with their re-elections on the line.