Pretty much this:

Hence the dilemma for the White House — which is leading to real disagreements in the West Wing over where to go next. One gets the sense Team Obama is surprised by how much damage the president suffered during the debt ceiling debate. Many folks in the president’s circle thought he’d get more credit with the public for looking like the reasonable guy in the room. A miscalculation?

Of course they did. And maybe high-information voters realized that Obama was in a really tough position and had some sympathy for the man. Then again, most high-information voters are partisans, and there wasn’t much for a partisan Democrat to like about the compromise. But we all know partisans weren’t the target of this. The White House’s avowed strategy is to pursue independents through both rhetorical and policy choices. Independents, as survey after survey shows, tend to be the least-informed of all groups. Expecting a narrative about Obama’s reasonableness to rise above the din of screeching Republicans and panicked finance and media folks just seems very unlikely to me.

The best way to appeal to independents right now is by improving the economy. The next best way is to have a simple, appealing, pervasive message that you pound into submission through every channel available to you, something that filters down to the bottom. I have to hand it to the GOP, they’re really, really good at doing that. Obama, on the other hand, seems to think wooing independents is no different from wooing the college graduates and pragmatic progressives he won over during the Democratic primaries. He’s going after them the same way: assuming they’re paying attention, making a cerebral and thoughtful case, and counting on people being smart enough to see through the bullshit. Only he’s doing it with people who aren’t paying attention and don’t think much about politics. At least they realize it didn’t work out. The first step is admitting there is a problem, etc.

All in all, in a balanced, fair political environment Obama might have garnered something from being seen as responsible. But it’s puzzling to me that the Administration ever thought we had such a thing. Really, the Administration should have realized that the wise old men were full of shit when they ignored the deficit-cutting measures of the Affordable Care Act and echoed any criticism of it they could find.


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