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February 13, 2010
Does the White House secretly hope for a GOP takeover?
Sean Higgins of IBD has a fascinating piece on the attitude of the White House toward House Democrats and why they may not mind very much if the Republicans win the House in November:
Buried in a Politico story today on the growing friction between the House Democrats and the White House is an intriguing bit of news from an unnamed insider: House Democrats are beginning to wonder if the White House is intentionally throwing them under the bus:It should be noted that those in the White House who might secretly be hoping for this probably aren't president of the United States. Obama has had headaches dealing with members of his own party, but a GOP majority would double or triple the president's Tylenol bill. The Republicans would have their own agenda and the mandate to get it passed. Obama would veto legislation at risk to his chances in 2012.
One Democratic official ... (said) some Democratic House members actually believe that the White House "wouldn't mind having a foil, and that foil is a Republican (House) majority - that would serve their political purposes going into 2012."
These House Democrats say privately that veterans of Bill Clinton's administration working in Obama's White House may think having a Republican majority in Congress will help Obama win re-election, as it did Clinton in 1996. House Democrats know that Obama will do whatever it takes to win re-election, whether or not it helps members keep their seats this year.
The story goes on to quote White House adviser David Axelrod saying that such theories are "not based in reality."
Nevertheless, political experts have long noted that presidents tend to do best when the opposition party holds Congress and struggle when their parties have the majority. Jimmy Carter struggled despite Democratic domination of Congress, while Ronald Reagan thrived in the same environment. Bill Clinton stumbled when his party controlled Congress but regained his footing after the GOP takeover of 1994. George W. Bush's having a GOP-led Congress for most of his term did not help him pass social security or immigration reform, etc.
Sure, the president could try and criticize Republicans, setting himself up as a champion of the ordinary American. But has anyone noticed that Obama has precious little credibility with the voters at this point? I daresay he might try to paint the GOP as the party of the rich, but if the GOP's "Contract with America 2.0" is written the right way, the middle class should benefit the most.
Axelrod and other administration officials at that level are certainly not hoping for a GOP takeover of Congress. "Not based in reality" is probably one of the few utterances The Ax has made that reflects the truth.