Founded by Drew Pearson 1932
Is Obama playing the GOP?
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON – President Obama is courting and maneuvering Republican lawmakers whom he knows are trying to extricate themselves and their party from the Tea Party’s tentacles. He treated GOP senators to dinner and a key congressmen to lunch. But all is not as it seems.
On the surface, all appearances indicate that the president is on a charm offensive to woo just enough Republicans to vote with Democrats on key issues such as sequestration. But the real goal is 2014. Mid-term elections usually turn out poorly for second term presidents, who then move on to lame-duck status. This time, things may be different.
The Republican brand has been severely wounded by Tea Party zealots who challenged and defeated mainstream Republicans in recent primaries. These same zealots insist that Republican senators and congressmen toe the line or they, too, will face primary challenges.
This is where the president weighs in. In normal times opposing parties go after legislators who appear vulnerable for the next general election. Vulnerability can stem from a variety of reasons: changing demographics, changing priorities, personal problems, or unpopular stands. But this time, Democrats know that the real game is going to be played out in the primaries where a small number of Tea Party activists can muster enough strength to oust a mainstream incumbent who would probably win in the general election.
This takes us back to the president’s wooing. None of the folks he wined and dined are considered vulnerable targets. All of them would probably win reelection in a walk. But if they break with the Tea Party by siding with the president on virtually anything, they might find themselves vulnerable after all – in the primaries.
On the other hand, if these respected legislators cave in to the Tea Party, they will not only be compromising their own beliefs but alienating the general election voters as well. However, they know that something must be done to prevent the Tea Party from destroying the GOP.
Obama needs to pick up five seats to create a filibuster-proof Senate and 17 seats to regain control of the House. If he succeeds, his final two years, beginning in 2015, could prove to be his strongest. Historically this would be a daunting task, but by turning safe GOP seats into vulnerable seats, he might just do it.
And what is a mainstream Republican to do? The old Nixon adage of running right in the primaries and to the center in November may not work when the right is held hostage by uncompromising extremists. The president understands this, which is why he is helping a select group of mainstream Republicans move away from Tea Party ideologues, making them vulnerable to those very ideologues in the process. It’s not cynical; it’s politics.
© 2013 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND