Obama Goes on the Attack as Midterms Approach

Posted August 10, 2010 at 7:23pm

President Barack Obama officially turned his attention this week to the midterm elections, unloading on the GOP while defending administration policies and the Democratic Congress at an event a stone’s throw away from the home of his predecessor.

In a fundraising speech in Dallas — home to President George W. Bush and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions — and at another in Austin, Texas, Obama fired back at a party that has increasingly targeted him by name and promised to roll back his signature legislative achievements, including health care reform and the financial regulatory overhaul.

The Democratic strategy is to make the Nov. 2 elections a choice between competing visions, rather than a referendum on Obama administration policies and Democratic leadership. On one side, the Democrats argue, is a mainstream party pursuing forward-thinking policies to benefit the middle class; on the other are extremist Republicans pushing a return to the unpopular policies of the previous administration.

“The question we’re going to have in this election is whether we’re going to continue down a path of creating greater opportunity, making that opportunity available to all people — are we going to become more competitive in this 21st-century economy — or are we going to go backwards to the exact same policies that got us into this mess in the first place?” Obama said Monday during a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee at a private Dallas residence.

“And if you don’t think that’s what the choice is, you haven’t been paying attention to what the other side is offering for November,” Obama continued. “What they’re counting on in this election is amnesia. They’re counting on you not remembering the disastrous consequences of economic policies that, by the way, had caused problems for working-class families, for middle-class families, before the recession hit, before the crisis hit.”

When Obama took office 18 months ago, Republicans were leery of targeting a then-popular new chief executive. The GOP was still reeling from two straight wave elections that produced the largest Democratic majority in a generation.

But illustrative of Republicans’ confidence in their midterm chances and a political atmosphere that has tilted decidedly their way, the GOP now welcomes the opportunity to go toe to toe with Obama. The RealClearPolitics.com average of all polls taken July 13 to Sunday gauging support for a generic Republican running for Congress versus a generic Democrat shows the GOP with a 46.7 percent to 40.7 percent lead.

“Whether Democrats want to admit it or not, this election is going to be a referendum on President Obama’s job-killing policies,” NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said. “Pointing the finger at Republicans, or even liberal voters within their own party, is nothing more than a distraction and an abdication of their responsibility to get the economy moving and get the government’s fiscal house in order. When it comes down to it, Democrats still can’t answer the fundamental question, ‘Where are the jobs?'”

National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh, whose boss, NRSC Chairman John Cornyn, hails from San Antonio, echoed the unemployment theme. “No matter how hard the White House tries to spin it, and no matter how far some of their candidates try to run from it, this election will be a referendum on the Democrats’ agenda of the last two years, which has been marked with reckless government spending, a record government debt and, most importantly, a failure to create jobs,” Walsh said.

However, Democrats remain believers in their strategy.

The Democratic National Committee is pushing a media campaign seeking to tie GOP candidates and incumbents to the tea party movement, which the DNC labels as extremist. Meanwhile, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and DSCC are moving to paint Republicans as hard-liners who would privatize Social Security and curtail Medicare benefits if they regain control of Congress.

Additionally, Democratic leaders and Obama are criticizing Republicans for their call to extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for all income brackets. Democrats, who would allow the tax cuts to expire on schedule at year’s end for individuals earning more than $200,000 and families earning more than $250,000 annually, are charging the GOP with supporting tax giveaways for the rich at the expense of the federal deficit and the middle class.

The DCCC continues to maintain a strong financial advantage over the NRCC, and House Democratic leaders insist they will retain the majority. In the Senate, Democrats still appear likely to retain the majority, and last week the DSCC released a memorandum claiming improved prospects in Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana and Nevada.

“We look forward to President Obama continuing to highlight the choice facing voters between going forwards and going backwards to Bush’s failed agenda of unpaid tax cuts for the wealthy that add billions to the deficit, privatizing Social Security and Medicare, and protecting tax breaks for companies that ship American jobs overseas,” DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer said.

“We’ve said all along the elections must be a choice,” DSCC spokesman Eric Schultz added. “Republicans are on the ballot too, and given how many Republican Senate candidates are subscribing to the failed Bush economic policies of the past, the choice is becoming clearer and clearer to voters every day.”