Stop Campaigning, Mr. President

The President has great campaign skills. But a strategy based on doing what is comfortable rather than what is difficult will doom his second term

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Oliver Munday for TIME

President Obama has started his second term as if his re-election campaign had never ended. That is a titanic mistake. White House aides are fundamentally misreading the political landscape if they think a barrage of fiery stump speeches and campaign-style advocacy will achieve anything in Washington. In reality, the it-is-always-a-campaign thinking will subvert any chance for a meaningful Obama success in his second term.

There is no doubt the Republican Party faces a crisis in the broader electorate, particularly with the young, female and Latino voters who will be critical in the 2016 presidential election. But the immediate political battle is not about votes at the 2016 ballot box. It is about votes in Congress, where in the short term the Republicans are actually in a far stronger political position than the President.

Unlike his congressional opponents, President Obama faces a merciless countdown clock. In about 18 months, the national political agenda will become hostage to the 2014 midterm elections. After that, a high-stakes 2016 presidential-nomination contest will shift into high gear inside both parties. The President has little time to waste.

The White House realizes this and has come to the shaky conclusion that the President’s best tactic is to continue the campaign theatrics and force the GOP-controlled Congress to bend to his will. Showing the hubris of all things Obama, the White House has forgotten that while he won re-election fair and square with about 66 million votes, 61 million other Americans voted to fire the President. Many of those anti-Obama voters live and vote in the 232 congressional districts firmly held by Republicans. It is terribly naive to think that stuffing e-mail inboxes and presidential hectoring on the stump will persuade those voters — and their members of Congress — to support the President’s decidedly left-tilting second-term agenda. When the President threatens the Republicans in Congress with “or else,” they just roll their eyes and wonder “or else what?” In their precincts, he is not even a paper tiger.

The midterm elections, in fact, are almost certain to make things even worse for the President. The benchmark the media will use to measure the success of his second term will be set on decidedly Republican turf. The Democrats have to defend six Senate seats in states that voted to defeat the President. In the House, the sitting President’s party has gained seats only twice in midterms since 1938. The GOP should be very worried about 2016, but for 2014 things look pretty good.

So the President must choose: Does he want a second term of rhetoric without results while the rest of us suffer under an exploding federal debt and endless recession? Or does he want to actually get big, important things like immigration and entitlement reform done?

To accomplish the latter, the President must abandon the silly campaign 3.0 stuff and face reality. Only a bold Nixon-to-China-style realignment of Washington’s budgeting politics can give him — and the country — a meaningful second term. Six magic words can unlock the door to the votes inside the Republican fortress: Some beneficiaries pay more and chained CPI, budgetary code for slightly lowering benefit increases over time. Saying those words would mean the President is finally serious about facing the soaring cost of entitlements, with adjustments to future cost increases in Social Security and Medicare as well as a modest increase in what some must pay into the programs. The Democratic leadership will violently oppose this, but if the President really aspires to use his political capital as he says he does, then he must use it on his own party, where it can actually accomplish a result. The President should not forget that the Republicans are willing to do very unpopular things to confront the national-debt crisis. He should take advantage of that rare impulse of theirs, not dismiss it. With the momentum from real entitlement reform, he might even get the GOP to agree to increase tax revenue some more.

On immigration, the President doesn’t even need to push his party. He just needs to step out of the spotlight. Every time he points his finger at Congress and makes demands, he makes it harder for GOP leaders struggling to move an immigration bill with a path to legal status through the dangerous shoals of a divided Congress. That is why senior Republican leaders — and a few top Democratic leaders — privately wish the President would just be quiet and go away on this issue so they can try to grind out the best deal that can actually pass.

The President has great campaign skills. But a strategy based on doing what is comfortable rather than what is difficult will doom his second term.

216 comments
Bill1020
Bill1020

Mr. Murphy says that "republicans are willing to do very unpopular things to confront the national debt crisis."  My question is simply this: If Mr. Murphy is asking the president to do things that are very unpopular with his party, what are the things that the republicans willing to do that are unpopular within the republican party?  The answer is, I think, nothing.  Positions that the republicans are willing to take may very well be unpopular with the general population; but, those positions are very popular withing the republican base that elects more and more of these politicians due to gerrymandered "safe" districts.  Until the republican party is willing to confront its base, it is unrealistic for the president to compromise his beliefs while simply accepting the unwillingness of the opposition to move toward compromise at all.

PatrickAnthony
PatrickAnthony

KEEP Campaigning Mr. President.   Play to your strengths unrelentingly.   Ignore the pundits and all the "nay say"/ "yeah say" - we are all but the asterisks to the history which you embody at the cusps of the 21st.   This is American history and, even more significantly, world history.   YOU are American history: NOW fulfill your mandate and continue to BE the change.   Fulfill the mandate of your first campaign - not only the legislative agenda which you have fulfilled thus far, not only fulfilling the promise of change by being its actual embodiment and Great spirit, not only fulfilling the zenith of hopes in the Constitution stating, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights."  There was a spirit of Hope, Faith and Belief that was not fulfilled in the first term, through little fault of your own - NOW is that time, the time for all good men to come together - and they (tea partiers) will if not because of inspiration and hope because they have no choice but to do so.   A few days prior to a historic Black History Month and a few days after Frederick Douglass's birthday, let us all remember those wise words of Lincoln's dark doppelgänger, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

Libtards-UNITE
Libtards-UNITE

Barrack Hussein has never worked a day in his life.  He probably thinks what he's doing actually is work.

notsacredh
notsacredh

"To accomplish the latter, the President must abandon the silly campaign 3.0 stuff and face reality."

And the president needs to look no further than the Tea Baggers to see what facing reality looks like?

epbordelon
epbordelon

Ha!  Mike Murphy's memory is not as good as Joe Klein (who wrote the following column in the Feb 25th Time).  Mike Murphy's claimed that all Obama needs to do is say "some beneficiaries pay more" to unlock the Republican door.  Joe Klein remembered that Obama DID indeed say that in his State of the Union address.


Further, Joe expressed the Party-of-NO response to that which is that "[Obama] proposed soaking the rich to pay for Medicare".

So no magic doors unlocked by this!   So Mike is doubly wrong.

MitchBehna
MitchBehna

@secupp @TIMEPolitics Its too late. Bashing @rushlimbaugh, you showed you're not a #conservative, you're part of the #GOPEstablishment

Centrecut
Centrecut

@secupp @timepolitics All he's capable of is campaigning the other requires actually doing something.

QcyChickenman
QcyChickenman

@secupp he needs to because the split Gop are a bunch of morons

Sharpe222
Sharpe222

@kausmickey @murphymike why the hell would Obama take advice from a GOP strategy guy who failed to beat him with Mitt freakan Romney?

aasj
aasj

@secupp good 2 know u criticize d president evry 1nce in a whle, and nt only Rush. Y you've nvr called aynthng obama sys stpid or dangerous?

Kegan05
Kegan05

@adamsavader He is incapable of LEADING and is doing the only thing he know how to do: Community Organizing and Inciting Class Warfare.

mickeysooner
mickeysooner

@secupp @TIMEPolitics Funny you're tweeting this after LIMBAUGH's explained for 2 days why O stays in campaign mode. Maybe U should listen.

uwsp46
uwsp46

@secupp @TIMEPolitics he cant bc thats all he know how to do he cant Govern bc hes an IDIOT

mikdZ06
mikdZ06

@secupp @TIMEPolitics Is now not the time to do something right for the country!

KingsCupRun27
KingsCupRun27

@secupp @TIMEPolitics U should check what Bush did right after offering 2 privatize Social Security. News Flash-they all do it & shld do it

mytalley
mytalley

@secupp @timepolitics I have tried 2 give U D benefit of doubt, but U are a racist and U are stupid.It keeps flowing out in whatever U say.

ChuckPatti
ChuckPatti

“@secupp: Stop Campaigning, Mr. President http://t.co/H5Q0FBYk via @TIMEPolitics” And the camera hogging Republicans aren't Campaigning?

jbmurphy86
jbmurphy86

@secupp if he stops campaigning then that means he is actually responsible for how things are

ChuckPatti
ChuckPatti

“@secupp: Stop Campaigning, Mr. President http://t.co/H5Q0FBYk via @TIMEPolitics” He needs to stop, but criticism of him never has to?

ChuckPatti
ChuckPatti

“@secupp: Stop Campaigning, Mr. President http://t.co/H5Q0FBYk via @TIMEPolitics” He needs to stop, but criticism of him never stop, eh?

AimesKevin
AimesKevin

@secupp @TIMEPolitics shut up s.e.- are you a professional dumbass?

chloedutch
chloedutch

.@secupp @timepolitics what did you call W.'s travels to push SS privatization in 2005?

thaddiscreamer
thaddiscreamer

@secupp @timepolitics not sure I follow what you mean?

DannyAston4
DannyAston4

@secupp @TIMEPolitics Obama's tactic is obviously to go over the heads of Congress to the source of their power: Popular Opininion

GWstand
GWstand

@secupp @TIMEPolitics He's NOT CAMPAIGNING...It's his PROPAGANDA STRATEGY....to keep the emotional and political distortion alive to America

withtheWhatnow
withtheWhatnow

I think criminal lawyers call this plea the "you're hurting my client" objection. Constituents break fillibusters too. @secupp @TIMEPolitics

XeeJay2
XeeJay2

@secupp @TIMEPolitics congress needs to do it's job! Stop obstruction

JonathanFlora
JonathanFlora

@secupp Thanks for continuing to be a strong voice out there.

LisaMBratton
LisaMBratton

@secupp @timepolitics he is not capable of doing anything else #incompetent

MarkAcay
MarkAcay

@secupp @TIMEPolitics yes Mr prez, stop campaigning, let the hydrated sen from FL start the 2016 campaign.

Hooch01Kathy
Hooch01Kathy

@secupp @TIMEPolitics He doesn't care about the economy. He's working on seats!! Dems need and he's planting the seed.

adlehrer
adlehrer

@secupp @TIMEPolitics @murphymike.... Good point. Maybe if Ds stop campaigning altogether Rs will have a chance in 2016.

lldragonheartll
lldragonheartll

@secupp @TIMEPolitics explain why repubs are presenting their same old tired romney plan to help america, 2 words intellectualy bankrupt

OldSk00l60
OldSk00l60

@secupp @TIMEPolitics Won't happen; he can't solve any issues so he'll do the only thing he knows how to do!

gmw1wiseman
gmw1wiseman

@secupp @TIMEPolitics because clearly the GOP want to get stuff done. If they can't confirm a nominee what hope is there without pressure?

rlamick
rlamick

@secupp S.E. Popular opinion is the most powerful weapon a President has.

Nitsedy
Nitsedy

and fall back on all those other proven skills from his work history? @secupp @timepolitics #sarcasm

TampaMP
TampaMP

@secupp @TIMEPolitics It's the only thing an Empty Suit can do..

sawhite99
sawhite99

@secupp @TIMEPolitics when a guy has but 1 skill, he tends to over use it. Have hammer - everything's a nail. #tcot

SoloVoc
SoloVoc

@secupp @TIMEPolitics Oh come now - it's one of the few things he knows how to do.

southbronxirish
southbronxirish

@secupp @TIMEPolitics He can't stop campaigning he's in over his head and above his pay grade .

BibleThumpersDemise
BibleThumpersDemise

@Libtards-UNITE You will forever be a loser who never achieved 1% of what Obama has. He has more brains in his pinky toenail than you had at your apex. Stop harassing the majority of the country who voted for this man with lie after lie after lie.

What's next? You complain that Obama's underwear isn't white enough?

BibleThumpersDemise
BibleThumpersDemise

@epbordelon

There is no attempt by any wing of the party to disassociate itself from these retrograde, unpatriotic and American in chaos secessionist, they actually encourage this loathing of America, government and the entire concept of progress, while promising once again to be fiscally conservative, which they never are and always leave the nation in a far worse state than they find when they assume power.


A broken record sticks on 1 line and for the Republican Party that line has been a sonorous dirge with the words fiscally conservative droning on infinitum clipped just after the line of we are not and never will be and before the lines we will drain the treasury till there is nothing left and you dear citizens are the beast we are starving to feed our masters with whatever loose change you still might possess after our orgy of spending.


If you are not at all prescient you’ll fall for the cosmetic changes but bear in mind the same leopards will be vying for power and a thin layer of touch up paint won’t diminish the spots under it. I don’t believe a word they say anymore and every thinking person should realize that words are cheap and there is no movement worldwide that is currently cheaper with words and divorced from the citizens it pretends to serve than Republicanism, a home for and a mish mash of far right extremism controlled by corporate greed, leading a mob of politically and economically vandal minded illiterates on the whole.


Americans might just need a good laugh at Kabuki they try to pull on them. Nobody falls for their Ayn Rand BS except extreme reactionaries.

BibleThumpersDemise
BibleThumpersDemise

@Centrecut The majority of Americans support him.

Republicans will do what's right for the 99% or perish.

neilflagg
neilflagg

@mickeysooner LOL shorter Cupp: "Don't listen to Rush (so you won't know I make a career of cribbing him)". @secupp

mickeysooner
mickeysooner

@neilflagg @secupp Maybe she blames him for being relegated to MSLSD. LOL