With his Presidency threatened and his agenda under assault, President Barack Obama is working overtime to reinvent himself and recapture the campaign magic that propelled him into office in 2008.
Obama is moving to assume control not only of his agenda but also of the Democratic party in an effort to stave off disaster in the upcoming midterm elections.
With the Democrats’ 60-vote “veto proof” majority already lost in the Senate, the President and his party now worry that further losses in November could not only cripple the present agenda but also put a second term in doubt.
In the hallways of the Democratic National Committee, gallows humor prevails as some refer privately to the President as the “black Jimmy Carter,” comparing Obama to the last Democratic occupant of the White House to serve only one term.
Political strategists are worried and when political strategists get worried they also get desperate.
President Obama is reconstituting the team that helped him win the White House to counter Republican challenges in the midterm elections and recalibrate after political setbacks that have narrowed his legislative ambitions.
Mr. Obama has asked his former campaign manager, David Plouffe, to oversee House, Senate and governor’s races to stave off a hemorrhage of seats in the fall. The president ordered a review of the Democratic political operation — from the White House to party committees — after last week’s Republican victory in the Massachusetts Senate race, aides said.
In addition to Mr. Plouffe, who will primarily work from the Democratic National Committee in consultation with the White House, several top operatives from the Obama campaign will be dispatched across the country to advise major races as part of the president’s attempt to take greater control over the midterm elections, aides said.
“We are turning the corner to a much more political season,” said David Axelrod, a senior adviser, who confirmed Mr. Plouffe’s role. “We are going to evaluate what we need to do to get timely intelligence and early warnings so we don’t face situations like we did in Massachusetts.”
As Mr. Obama prepares to deliver his State of the Union address on Wednesday and lay out his initiatives for the second year of his presidency, his decision to take greater control of the party’s politics signals a new approach. The White House is searching for ways to respond to panic among Democrats over the possible demise of his health care bill and a political landscape being reshaped by a wave of populism.
Improving tactical operations addresses only part of his challenge. A more complicated discussion under way, advisers said, is how to sharpen the president’s message and leadership style.