By Amie Parnes - 12/21/11 11:58 PM EST
President Obama, who has been on the losing end of several hard-fought battles with House Republicans, is showing that he thinks he’s winning the latest tax fight.
While the White House — which has made it known that they detest polls and the typical Washington horseracing — won’t get into the “winners and losers” game of the tax extension battle, Obama and his aides seemed to be brimming with confidence on Wednesday.
And if the president cared that his own holiday plans are in limbo, he wasn’t showing it.
He went Christmas shopping, even swinging by a pet store to buy his dog a chew toy.
The afternoon trip to PetSmart, Best Buy and a pizzeria signaled more than any press conference the confidence Obama and Democrats have that they are pummeling Republicans in the messaging battle over the payroll tax, which will rise in January unless legislation is approved.
Obama bas been bolstered by rising poll numbers and even the conservative editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, which editorialized Wednesday that Republicans were increasing the likelihood of a second term for the president. His one-time rival Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and other Republican senators have also criticized their House colleagues.
Even Karl Rove, the former political strategist to former President George W. Bush, conceded on Wednesday that House Republicans had “lost the optics” in the tax fight.
“The only way to win it is to sit there and ruin their own Christmases and wait until the president heads off to Hawaii for his, and then lambast the Democrats for having abdicated their responsibility of passing a yearlong tax cut,” Rove said.
Meanwhile, on the opposite end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Boehner was doing everything but shopping.
“He met with staff, met with negotiators, met with staff, talked to the President, met with staff, did a radio interview, met with staff,” Boehner’s spokesman Brendan Buck said in an email when asked how the Speaker spent his day.
Back at the White House, during the daily briefing, press secretary Jay Carney was fielding questions about Boehner being “boxed in a corner,” as one put it.
“Is the president going to do nothing to help the Speaker get out of that corner?” a reporter asked.
Carney grinned. “The president is doing everything he can to help the American people,” he said, before adding quickly, “The Speaker is very capable of helping himself by calling a vote on the Senate compromise.”
“There is a bipartisan compromise available to him as a lifesaver, if you will,” Carney said, standing behind a White House podium framed between two countdown clocks, which openly casts blame on the House if they don’t act before the end of the year.
Later, after Carney opined that he is “confident” the tax spending bill would pass if the Speaker brought it to the floor, another reporter questioned: “Might that not spark a revolt within his own caucus?”
“The president has an enormous amount of responsibilities,” Carney said. “Every president does. He cannot be responsible for the internal politics of the other party in one house of Congress.
“He is simply focused on doing what is best for the American people,” he added. When the subject turned to Obama’s shopping trip on Wednesday, one reporter asked if Obama was trying to send a message, “that he can’t get anything done until Congress acts, so he might as well go shopping.”
“The president is obviously very busy here,” Carney replied. “And sometimes it’s nice to get out of the house.”