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May 5, 2010

will the White House go all in?

At a book party for Robert Kuttner's A Presidency in Peril, guests debated whether the White House will actively and forcefully support Democratic congressional candidates this November.

The argument against: Democrats are going to lose seats compared to 2008, even if they manage to draw a majority of the popular vote. A loss of seats will be depicted as a loss, period. If pundits and politicians assert that the president tried to help his party but failed, he will be depicted as weak and unpopular. That perception will deplete his political capital for the 2010-2012 legislative sessions.

The argument in favor: Perceptions of the president matter, but they will be shaped by more fundamental factors than whether he is perceived to have campaigned for Democrats in congressional elections. (The unemployment rate will be far more important, for one thing.) By campaigning, he may be able to boost turnout and save some seats. Even if he doesn't, he can gain political capital by taking a risk for his party. And he can energize the Democratic side by showing that he is moved by principle and policy, not by short-term political considerations. Finally, by making principled arguments for progressive policies in 2010, he can lay the groundwork for majority support when (or if) the economy finally recovers.

May 5, 2010 8:26 AM | category: none



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