Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) complained on Fox News yesterday, “All [President Obama] does is go out and make speeches” instead of negotiating with lawmakers like him. Around the same time, on “Meet the Press,” Republican strategist Mike Murphy argued that the president should “stop the speeches” and “stop the politicization.” Also on “Meet the Press,” Republican pundit Michael Gerson complained about the “outside game [Obama’s] been pursuing,” in which the president hits the road, “beating up on the Congress.”
It’s not exactly subtle: Obama’s GOP detractors aren’t happy about the president taking his message directly to the public though outside-the-beltway events.
Then again, it appears the White House doesn’t much care. When Obama delivered a big speech on preventing gun violence, he did so not in Washington, but in Minnesota. When he spoke on immigration reform, the president skipped D.C. and traveled to Las Vegas.
The president will deliver the State of the Union from Capitol Hill tomorrow, but over the weekend, the White House announced the president’s plans for the rest of the week.
After Tuesday evening’s State of the Union address, the President will travel to three different communities to discuss proposals, unveiled in the speech, that focus on strengthening the economy for the middle class and those striving to get there. On Wednesday, February 13th, the President will travel to the Asheville, North Carolina area for an event. On Thursday, February 14th, the President will travel to the Atlanta, Georgia area for an event. On Friday, February 15th, the President will travel to the Chicago area for an event.
To be sure, this is hardly the first time a president has taken a post-SOTU road trip, but these excursions come against an interesting backdrop.
For one thing, we have Republicans urging Obama not to take his message directly to the public, which should probably be a sign that the president is doing the smart thing, since his detractors probably don’t have his best interests at heart.
For another, keep in mind, the president played the game for much of his first term the way the GOP wanted: staying in D.C., huddled in closed-door meetings trying to find new ways to meet Republican demands. It appears Obama has learned a lesson he intends to apply to his second term: the old way wasn’t constructive, didn’t pay dividends, and failed to make GOP policymakers more cooperative and/or interested in governing.
Whether the new strategy works or not remains to be seen, but it’s a deliberate shift – Obama hopes to change the political environment, and create new public pressures, by making his pitch outside Washington, whether Republican lawmakers and pundits like it or not.