It seems that in order to win reelection despite middling poll numbers and a lackluster economic recovery, the president has torn a page from the playbook of perhaps the most successful electoral comeback in American history, Harry S Truman’s “Give ‘Em Hell” campaign in 1948. I mean, heck, the Democrats are already borrowing one of the Missourian’s key expressions from that fall, dubbing the current Republican Congress a “do-nothing” institution.
Only problem is that unlike his accomplished partisan predecessor (and at odds with administration talking points), the incumbent Democrat doesn’t face a Republican Congress. The opposition controls only one chamber of the federal legislature. His party controls the other chamber and it’s the real do-nothing body, not having based a budget in 914 days.
Another thing which distinguishes the “give ’em hell” campaign of 1948 from Obama’s efforts is when the respective incumbents began their attacks. Truman, as my preliminary research indicates, didn’t start going on the warpath until his party’s nominating convention in July 1948. Obama began his attacks in earnest about the time he launched his reelection campaign in April 2011, a full fifteen months ahead in the 2012 cycle of Truman’s starting point in the 1948 cycle.
Wonder if any of the other post-World War II presidents running for reelection began their partisan attacks so far ahead of the presidential election campaign. Bill Clinton, the most recent Democrat to occupy the Oval Office, had the good sense to run TV ads (outside major media markets) in 1995, linking the then-likely Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole to the then-increasingly unpopular House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He, as I recall, kept his personal attacks to a minimum.
Will this strategy work?
Or will the president’s increasingly polarizing rhetoric define him as a leader entirely at odds with the image of a post-partisan unifier presented in the 2008 campaign and so sink any chances he has for reelection? Could the attacks cement the image of Barack Obama as a mean-spirited, petty partisan? Will the people tire of the blame-game he’s playing and become immune to these attacks?
Perhaps the legacy media’s predilection for playing along with Democratic talking points* will the Democrats succeed in creating the image of an intransigent, irresponsible and unaccomplished Republican legislature?
*Did any of the journalist interviewing Democrats who refer to the “Republican Congress” correct his interlocutor?
FROM THE COMMENTS: ILoveCapitalism builds on a question I asked in this post’s penultimate paragraph:
With every partisan attack, Obama further destroys his own myth – that he is a born unifier. People can see that not only has Obama failed to improve the tone in Washington, he makes it considerably worse.