What is it about the guy?
From the start -- whether it was the economy, Republican intransigence and a preference for power over the country, or the Affordable Care Act -- Democrats allowed Republicans to frame the "debate." I realize many people are still damaged by the catastrophe of 2008, but even as ACA has proven a success and the economy (on the brink of the abyss when Obama took office, you may remember) is on a halting but steady roll, Democrats continue to campaign in what can only be described as a cringe.
Maybe I’ve missed it, but I haven’t heard any of the Democratic Senate candidates talking about that, or putting it into their ads. None of them mention that the budget is in far better shape largely because taxes went up on the rich, and because health care costs are falling. It’s unusual even to hear that unemployment is down to 5.9 percent, or that 5.5 million jobs have been added since 2009, which is four times more than under all eight years of George W. Bush. (If there are candidates who are exceptions to this, let me know and I’ll mention them here.)
Mr. Obama, at least, talks about this all the time. “Deficits have come down,” he said today in Providence. “Health care inflation has come down. There’s almost no economic measure by which we haven’t made substantial progress over this period of time. We’re better off than we were.”
But those comments aren’t echoed, and it’s probably because those statistics are so closely associated with the White House line that the candidates don’t want to mention them, for fear of being linked to an unpopular figure. Many voters simply assume that Mr. Obama, or for that matter any Democrat, is incapable of handling the budget responsibly. A recent Gallup survey shows that voters give Republicans a 20-point advantage over Democrats in dealing with the deficit, even though it was President Bush who ran up the deficit sky-high through tax cuts and wars, and President Obama who brought it back under control.
As the columnist Jill Lawrence wrote yesterday in The National Memo, it’s hard to expect the public to be impressed by the Obama administration’s achievements if his own party’s candidates won’t talk about them. She quoted the longtime Democratic strategist Robert Weiner complaining about this absence: “His presidency has been Rooseveltian, but the Republicans would have you believe the guy is inept. The silence is deafening from our side.”
When they lose control of the Senate, perhaps they'll realize their mistake. More likely, though, the cringe will remain the default setting.