Midterm Rejection: Do-Nothing Plays Will Do-In a Do-Nothing President

October 28, 2014

For more on this post, listen to Alan Kelly on SiriusXM POTUS 10-29-14

In our spectrum of 24 influence strategies, there are two that stand out for their total lack of gravity — the Pause and the Pass.  One is designed to wait; the other to walk.  Each has its pros and cons, and each is a favorite of President Barack Obama, whose six-year tenure is a showcase of these do-nothing plays.  Take, as an example, the approaching midterm elections.

PZWhether in Kentucky where Alison Lundergan Grimes hopes to dethrone Senator Mitch McConnell, or Texas where Wendy Davis is competing against Greg Abbott for governor, Obama’s low approval rating has earned him no love.  Don’t do anything.  Don’t come here.  Don’t try to help me.  Just send money, he’s been told.  So he’s Passed or Paused, it hardly matters which.

Why go it alone? Democratic candidates have been quizzed.  Their off-the-record answers are circular if not cowardly:

Q. Why isn’t the president campaigning with you?

A:  Because he’s a boat anchor on my campaign.

Q.  Why is he a boat anchor?

A.  Because people hate him in my district, state, etc.

Q.  Why do your constituents hate him?

A.  Duh…Obamacare, jobs, terrorism, illegals, pandemics, you name it.

Q.  Aren’t those things working themselves out?

A.  Yeah, mostly.

Q.  Then why isn’t the president helping you say it?

A.  Because people hate him.  Are you deaf?

Q.  Perhaps they would hate him less if you let him promote his successes…?

A.  No can do.  They hate him.

Q.  Because he’s a boat anchor on your campaign, right?

A.  Now you’re listening!

With the president separated from his party, Republicans are likely to steal the Senate, largely by way of three simple framing plays:

  • Recast:  Pin a story of national failure and panic on a failed political party, its permissive policies, and a detached if not disinterested president.
  • Filter:  Leave out the stuff about falling unemployment rates, a contained Ebola virus, and a quieted ISIS threat, etc.   Add in the promise of new leadership in a post-gridlock panacea.
  • Screen:  Reference over and over the president’s pitiful approval rating.   Repetition will make it so.

Democrats have only countered with an anemic bob-and-weave:

  • Deflect:  Dodge gotcha questions of loyalty to Obama.  Did you vote for Obama?  Why are you avoiding the president
  • Screen:  Cite chapter and verse the miseries that will be visited upon Americans with a Republican-controlled Congress (e.g., fences, cuts, mass-deportations, wars).
  • Filter:  Leave out the part about the status quo and continued gridlock.

D’s will kick themselves for neutering the president.  And so will the president for keeping his distance.  The economy has resurged by many measures.  Ebola has not swept the land like locusts.  Nor has ISIS.  And those are stories that Obama will wish he’d told and sold from his bully pulpit, permission of not.

Post by Alan Kelly

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