Obama changes message to revive agenda, help Dems in 2010 races

Obama changes message to revive agenda, help Dems in 2010 races

President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaRealClearPolitics editor says Trump needs to compromise on border to shift public opinion Obama ‘new blood’ remark has different meaning for Biden  Democratic dark horses could ride high in 2020 MORE is changing his political strategy to revive public support for his endangered legislative agenda and avert a catastrophe in the midterm elections.

Obama has decided to strike a more populist tone and will take his message outside of Washington, crisscrossing the nation to sell his policies to voters much the way he did during the 2008 campaign.

The president’s new tack coincides with an announcement that David Plouffe, the manager of Obama’s successful White House campaign, will take on a formal role overseeing the Democratic Party’s political operations.

It also comes as many lawmakers and advisers are pressing the president to focus on the economy and return to his strength — campaigning. Many strategists see White House senior political adviser David Axelrod’s fingerprints all over the change in tactics.

Democratic lawmakers are already gearing up for a difficult year at the polls, with analysts projecting they will lose seats.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has declared: “I’m in campaign mode.”

Even as he switches into his own campaign mode, Obama indicated on Monday that he is prepared to stand by his policies.

In an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer, Obama said he would “rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.

“You know, there is a tendency in Washington to believe our job description, of elected officials, is to get reelected. That’s not our job description,” Obama said. “Our job description is to solve problems and to help people.”

The president’s emphasis on helping the working class, getting tougher and selling it to voters in personal appearances around the country comes as Democrats analyze the shocking loss in last week’s special election in Massachusetts

But Democratic lawmakers who have advised the administration in recent weeks say Obama had decided on his new course even before Scott Brown (R) captured the Senate seat held by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) for 46 years.

Obama told Democratic lawmakers at their retreat earlier this month that he would make more of an appeal to working men and women by taking frequent trips around the country over the next year — following advice that some of them have been trying to give him for months.

Many lawmakers feel they have been more attuned to rising discontent across the country because of frequent contact with voters. They hear directly from those dealing with 10 percent unemployment and fears of new layoffs. They also hear the outrage at reports of Wall Street bankers giving themselves lavish bonuses after receiving bailouts with taxpayer money.

“We go home every weekend and we’re hearing from people who aren’t direct beneficiaries of the Wall Street bailout,” said Rep. Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchOvernight Health Care: Dems hit GOP with ObamaCare lawsuit vote | GOP seeks health care reboot after 2018 losses | House Dems aim for early victories on drug pricing | CDC declares lettuce e-coli outbreak over DeGette dropped from chief deputy whip spot How to reform the federal electric vehicle tax credit MORE (D-Vt.).

White House advisers are staying in close touch with Welch and other Democratic lawmakers to get a feel for the political climate and to inform their own policy proposals.

Welch, the sponsor of the Wall Street Bonus Tax Act, has counseled the White House on its complementary proposal to impose a new fee on banks to help pay down the federal deficit.

“The president understands that it’s mainstream and working Americans, middle-class folks, that we’ve got to help,” Welch said.

Rep. Leonard Boswell, a Democrat from Iowa who every two years finds himself on the Republicans’ target list, said Obama got the message from lawmakers even before the Massachusetts election.

“We’ve been trying to get that message to him and I think he’s hearing that,” Boswell said. “The president said he would spend a lot of time traveling across the country helping with message.”

Boswell said lawmakers discussed advice with White House officials at several weekly meetings on the budget and federal deficit led by Reps. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) and David Price (D-N.C.).

Boswell said Obama acknowledged lawmakers’ concerns at the Democratic Caucus retreat held a few days before Brown’s victory, a sign that White House advisers had developed a sense of just how sour the national political mood had turned.

Obama put the road-trip component of his strategy into effect late last week when he toured several manufacturing plants and factories in Ohio.

Rep. Bruce BraleyBruce Lowell BraleyOPINION | Tax reform, not Trump-McConnell feuds, will make 2018 a win for GOP Ten years later, House Dems reunite and look forward Trump: Ernst wanted 'more seasoning' before entertaining VP offer MORE (D-Iowa), the founder of the House Populist Caucus, said Obama’s focus had drifted away from middle- and working-class issues over the past year.

Braley said his advice to Obama at the end of last year “was to get out of the White House and away from the Ivy League influence that appears to have dominated White House economic policy.”

Braley said he was “very pleased the president has decided to renew an emphasis on the middle class.”

While lawmakers say they have been urging the president for weeks to pursue a more populist agenda, Democratic strategists say the shift in strategy looks clearly like the work of Axelrod.


One Democratic strategist said Axelrod has “always been a little more of a populist from a message standpoint.”

Axelrod was known for his leather jacket and rumpled shirts on the campaign trail. After Obama took office, Axelrod bought a new wardrobe of sober-looking suits.

But now it appears that Obama’s political guru has decided it’s time for the president and his staff to start appealing more to regular Joes.

“Axelrod during the campaign was the keeper of the Obama brand,” said a former Democratic campaign official.