The president may continue to claim that the economy’s woes just aren’t his fault, but in his fifth year in office, those excuses are wearing exceedingly thin. It won’t help that his Inaugural Address included barely a mention of jobs or economic growth: He’s made his real priorities clear.
Meanwhile, he’s dealt himself another problem that will frustrate all his efforts to deal with the economy.
A year ago, Democratic pollsters Doug Schoen and Pat Caddell warned in an oped column that Obama could only win re-election by running “the most negative campaign in history,” and that the political damage from such a campaign would leave him unable to govern in a second term.
It was one of the boldest predictions of the election season — and it was right.
No sooner had Romney secured the GOP nomination than Team Obama hit him with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of negative ads, casting him as, in Haley Barbour’s words, a “wealthy plutocrat married to a known equestrian.”
The Obama blitzkrieg defined Mitt Romney before he could define himself. And despite an inspired first debate performance, he never recovered.
Nor did the president let up after Election Day. In his inaugural address, his usual lofty rhetoric thinly veiled the same partisan attack lines he used in his campaign, complete with references to “the shrinking few who do very well” and those who believe in “happiness for the few.”
Even after the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was willing and able to strike a conciliatory tone with his political opposition. Not Obama.
The start of Obama’s second term looks a lot more like the beginning of FDR’s second term in 1937, when he launched his Supreme Court-packing plan — and wound up losing 81 seats to the Republicans in the 1938 midterms.