It’s certainly not pretty, but darn if it doesn’t appear to be working.
President Obama’s newfound message discipline on jobs and his two-pronged attack on the GOP are providing the beleaguered president with new signs of life not long after many were wondering if he had anything left.
It seems shocking that Obama the underdog is putting Republicans on defense, but that is exactly what’s happening.
In a role reversal from the beginning of the year, it is now Republicans in Congress who are clamoring for bipartisan cooperation. And if we learned anything from Obama this summer, it’s that appeals for bipartisanship are the clarion call of the party that’s back-pedaling.
While the majority of polls are still bleak for Obama, there are suddenly silver linings for the Chicago team.
An ABC/Washington Post poll this month saw Obama enjoying enormous gains across the board on the question of whether voters trust the president or Republicans in Congress more to create jobs.
In September, 37 percent of independents said Obama, while 42 percent said Republicans. A month later, the poll was much better for the president, with 44 percent saying they trust Obama more and only 31 percent favoring the GOP.
The new discipline is working with Democrats, too. After almost three years of begging Obama to drive home a consistent message on jobs, Democrats are starting to rally behind the president.
Sixty-nine percent of Democrats in the ABC/Post poll trusted Obama on jobs in September. That number is now up to 79 percent.
Of course, not all the numbers are good for the White House. Unemployment is still at 9.1 percent, Obama’s approval numbers are still hovering around 42 percent and the president’s jobs bill is far from passing.
But when you’re a presidential campaign bailing out a sinking ship, success is about finding a message when the numbers are impossible to sell.
It wasn’t that long ago that Obama was reeling, unable to get the Speaker of the House to return his calls and going nowhere fast on the economy, the issue that matters most to Americans.
Now John Boehner wants to talk and Obama is not interested. Boehner had his chance, the White House seems to be signaling.
Obama feels as if he got burned badly trying to work with Boehner last summer, and does not seem willing to risk putting his hand on that stove again. And really, why would he?
The White House and Chicago believe Obama has a message that dovetails nicely with the anger that seems to be growing by the day, as reflected in the Occupy Wall Street protests that started in New York but are migrating around the country.
Obama has taken to the Truman strategy like a fish to water, his inherent disdain for Congress on display at every turn.
Hope and change are soooo 2008. This is about anger, and Congress is an easy target.
White House officials are cautiously optimistic that the message of a do-nothing Congress standing in the way of jobs is working.
They are eager to see the roll-call vote when the $35 billion for teachers and first responders comes up Friday.
A couple of Democratic defections are expected, but the White House still thinks voters will see the story as GOP obstructionism.
Officials noted that two of the bill’s co-sponsors — Sens. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) — are not exactly water-carriers for Obama, and that both are facing their own reelection battles next year.
If those folks are rallying around Obama’s jobs message, what will Republican Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.) and others do?
While Obama works the body, rolling up his sleeves and insulting Congress in small towns in North Carolina and Virginia, he is leaving the attacks on Mitt Romney to his campaign.
Senior campaign strategist David Axelrod has become a one-man wrecking ball on all things Romney. He has been almost Rove-ian in attacking the GOP front-runner, asking what Romney’s core beliefs are, throwing around words like “robotic” and flat-out stating that Romney cannot be trusted.
Make no mistake: Obama is still in very real trouble, and he will be as long as unemployment stays high. So far, it is unclear whether Axelrod is having any success with the larger electorate in defining Romney as tied to Wall Street.
But Obama now has a message and a foil. It ain’t exactly hope and change, but this is not going to be an inspiring election.
If Obama is going to win, he and his team are going to have to grind it out. That’s what they’re doing. And so far, they’re optimistic it is working. Even if 14 million Americans aren’t.
Youngman is the White House correspondent for The Hill. Find his column, “Obama’s Bid for Reelection,” on thehill.com.