Crossroads GPS, an arm of GOP strategist Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, unveiled an online video Tuesday that attempts to use President Obama’s big tonal shift at Monday’s inauguration to his disadvantage. The ad splices clips from journalists who after the second inaugural said things like “I think this is the most liberal speech Obama has ever given” and “finally the President is laying out his real agenda.” It ends with the question, “If the media is calling Obama’s policies liberal, what can we expect in the next four years?”
Indeed my colleagues at TIME have agreed that Obama has taken a much more combative tone at the beginning of his second term. Michael Crowley wrote, “With his second Inaugural Address, Obama has replaced his olive branch with a hot poker.” Michael Scherer believed the speech was “a paean to progressive values that called for a new movement of citizen activism.” Michael Grunwald wrote that the speech “gave voice to what his advisers have long said in private: that the only way for the President to work his will on a divided government over the next two years is to apply tremendous outside pressure on his opponents.”
The ad hopes to undercut Obama’s use of “outside pressure” in the second term. Liberal policies may be a great way to rally the base, but it is far from clear that the “liberal” label Obama is attracting will help him sustain a governing majority in the coming years. In exit polls last November, only one in four voters described themselves as “liberal,” compared to 41% who claimed to be “moderate” and 35% who said they were “conservative.” Obama’s victory over Mitt Romney was largely the result of winning 56% of the self-described “moderate” vote.