NEWS BLOG (WSAU) If I was a political consultant my number one piece of advice would be this: “Make sure you’re not being attacked from both sides.” Taking fire from your political left and political right at the same time is untenable. The close cousin of my advice is: keep your base happy. There’s more upside to rewarding your supporters than there is to try winning over your opponents.
Consider what happened to house speaker Nancy Pelosi during her speech at The Campaign for America’s Future convention. Pelosi was heckled mercilessly by people on her political left. And she wasn’t there on her own, she was a proxy for President Obama. The White House has a problem with its political left. Columnist Dana Milbank sums it up: slow on Gitmo, upping the ante in Afghanistan, slow on getting out of Iraq and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, half-a-loaf on healthcare reform, and no action yet on immigration and labor. (Read Dana Milbak’s account of the Pelosi speech here: http://tinyurl.com/2uapvfj )
George Bush also took fire from both ends of the political spectrum. Conservatives hated that government spending grew so much during the Bush years. Liberals were never going to become Bush supporters, regardless of how much money he shoveled into their pet projects. He would have been politically smart to cut spending to satisfy his base. It was the difference between leaving office with a 50-percent versus a 30-percent approval rating. And Bush’s historically low approval will forever be a part of his Presidency.
Barack Obama is in the same situation. The same President who managed to get health care reform through congress with a hard shove has no chance of winning over the political right. He might as well go all the way with the left.
There are more than just job approval ratings at risk. A President with no coattails suffers tremendous political losses in Congress. Very few GOP candidates wanted to campaign with Bush. And he lost both houses before his term was up. Obama-backed candidates have been consistent losers at the ballot box, and Presidential campaign visits seem to make things worse.
Individual political jabs don’t hurt. But they wear down a politician over time. A disillusioned base stays home, as the White House may find out in November.
Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau