Obama imitates Truman’s re-election campaign

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama took the next step on his road to a 1948-style run for re-election by declaring he is being stymied by a do-nothing Congress.

“This Congress, they are accustomed to doing nothing, and they’re comfortable with doing nothing, and they keep on doing nothing,” he told roughly 30 supporters at the first of two D.C. fundraisers held on Thursday evening.

That depiction of a do-nothing Congress, which is set to become a feature of his stump speech, echoes President Harry Truman’s come-from-behind 1948 race for the presidency, in which he railed at a Republican-led “do-nothing Congress.”

That depiction helped Truman beat the Republican governor of New York,Thomas Dewey, even though it was untrue. The Republican-led Congress had deregulated wartime economy rules, reshaped labor law and helped establish the NATO alliance.

Republicans say this year’s Congress has been very active. In April the House passed a 10-year budget plan that would sharply reduce deficit spending, but the Democratic-controlled Senate has rejected the plan. Republican leaders in the House have also forced down spending plans, extended tax cuts, stopped Obama’s ambitious plans to regulate the energy sector and forced an agreement to slow the growth of federal spending.

Obama’s criticism of Congress is a shift from early this year. As the economy stalled, he has changed his campaign-trail rhetoric, and shifted from optimistic forecasts of growth towards negative depictions of long-term paralysis unless his policies are followed. (RELATED: Reid in no rush to pass Obama’s jobs bill)

On Sept. 8, he use his speech at a joint session of Congress to announce a $446 billion one-year stimulus plan that is to be funded by tax increases. The plan is opposed by nearly all GOP legislators, and by some Democratic legislators, and it has little or no chance of being passed, but its failure helps the president claim Congress is doing-nothing to spur economic growth.

“My hope is that we’re going to keep on seeing some governance out of Washington over the next several months,” he told the donors at the first fundraiser, according to the White House transcript of the speech. “We intend to keep the pressure on [Congress] … we are going to run this like a campaign, in the sense that we’ve got to take it to the American people, and make the case as to why it is possible for Washington to make a difference right now,” he said.

Roughly 30 couples paid $35,800 to attend the first event in D.C.’s Foggy Bottom district. The event was sponsored by the African American Leadership Council. About 50 people attended the second fundraiser, where couples paid $38,500 to the Obama Victory Fund. The second event was hosted by Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, a former ambassador to Portugal, at her home in the Georgetown district.

The two events raised up to $3 million for Obama’s campaign.

The extra money will be needed because Obama’s approval polls have sunk into the mid-40s, and he’s lost critical support from Hispanic voters in in crucial swing-states, such as Florida and North Carolina. The red-hot rhetoric from him and his allies, such as Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, may spur his base, but threatens to alienate independent swing-voters, including the Democratic voters in New York state’s ninth district, who elected on Tuesday a Republican to take a House seat once occupied by Democratic stalwarts, Rep. Anthony Wiener and Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Obama acknowledged the uphill path he faces. The race “is going to require that everybody here bring every ounce of effort that they’ve got into making sure that the campaign is successful, but also that we’re able to get a clear mandate for the kinds of changes that we want to make,” he said at the first fundraiser, according to a pool reporter.

“The odds of me being elected are much are much higher than me being elected in the first place,” Obama told the second event. “This is one of those times all of you are going to have to be my ambassadors.”

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