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IF ONLY SHE HAD A HUSBAND WHO WAS A PAST MASTER OF RETAIL POLITICS: Hillary’s staffers “stumped for month by how to explain why their candidate wanted to be president:”

The real protagonist of this book is a Washington political establishment that has lost the ability to explain itself or its motives to people outside the Beltway.

In fact, it shines through in the book that the voters’ need to understand why this or that person is running for office is viewed in Washington as little more than an annoying problem.

In the Clinton run, that problem became such a millstone around the neck of the campaign that staffers began to flirt with the idea of sharing the uninspiring truth with voters. Stumped for months by how to explain why their candidate wanted to be president, Clinton staffers began toying with the idea of seeing how “Because it’s her turn” might fly as a public rallying cry.

Ted Kennedy could not be reached in Hell for comment and belly laughs.

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Obama’s Big Miscalculation.

Frank Fukuyama, no howling partisan, has tagged President Obama’s decision to circumvent Congress on immigration as a “bad call,” and while the President’s limited offer of a three-year temporary work authorization for people in the country illegally was not the worst or the most radical step he could have taken, Frank is right. This was the wrong step at the wrong time. At the very minimum, the President should have given the new Congress ninety days to act before going it alone. Failing to do so isn’t just a slap in the face of his Republican opponents; it is a slap in the face of the voters who no longer trust the President and his party on the big issues of national life.

If the new Congress proved unable or unwilling to act, the President’s step would have had at least an element of political legitimacy to it. As it is, this half-hearted, hobbled amnesty will likely join President Obama’s flawed health care law as a toxic legacy that will haunt the Democratic Party for years to come. Just as the President’s poor reputation was a millstone around the neck of many Democratic candidates in 2014, future Democratic candidates are going to run away from Obama’s memory, and their opponents will work to tag them with the heavy burden of a presidency that most Americans will want to forget. As a political brand, the name “Barack Obama” now risks drifting into Jimmy Carter territory and becoming a label that blights the prospects of the Democratic party and its candidates for years.

Moreover, as with the health care law, the President’s immigration policy doesn’t solve the underlying problems it addresses and makes the task of real reform more difficult. As often happens with our careful and deliberative President, he’s balanced so many concerns so nicely and split so many hairs so finely that the final product doesn’t get much done.

It’s almost as if he’s just not all that good at this Presidenting stuff.

MICHAEL BARONE: Astonishing poll shows 38-year Democratic congressman down 14 points.

This is astonishing for several reasons. Rahall, first elected in 1976, is now the seventh most senior member of the House, with three of the more senior members retiring (John Dingell, Henry Waxman, George Miller) and another with a serious primary challenge (Charlie Rangel). Moreover, his district in southern West Virginia has historically been very Democratic; in its previous boundaries it voted for Walter Mondale over Ronald Reagan in 1984. Rahall won in 1976 by 46 percent to 37 percent over Ken Hechler, his predecessor in the seat, who after losing a Democratic primary for governor ran as a write-in candidate; the Republican nominee received only 18 percent of the vote. From 1978 to 2008, Rahall was re-elected with at least 64 percent of the vote, except in 1990 when he beat Republican Marianne Brewster by only 52 percent to 48 percent.

But this is coal country, and Rahall’s margins have gone down after President Obama was elected president. In 2010, Rahall won by a reduced margin of 56 percent to 44 percent, and in 2012, his margin was only 54 percent to 46 percent. Obama’s unpopularity surely cost him: John McCain carried the district within its then-boundaries by a 56-percent to 42-percent margin in 2008, and Mitt Romney carried the current district 65 percent to 33 percent in 2012. Rahall is ranking Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and was Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee when Democrats had a majority in the House; these are committee positions of importance to a mountainous coal district, but apparently they are not enough to help him now.

Obama’s a millstone around a lot of necks this election cycle.

PRESIDENT MILLSTONE: Politico: President Obama Could Be A Drag On Senate Democrats. “In every major race next year featuring a Senate Democratic incumbent, Obama is polling worse than the incumbent — in some cases, by a substantial margin — according to publicly released surveys.”

Related: Obama Job Approval: Worst Quarter Yet.

PRESIDENT MILLSTONE: WaPo: In tight Virginia races, Democrats cutting ties to Obama. “Three years ago, Democrats in Virginia couldn’t get enough of Barack Obama — a popular, transformational figure running for his first term as president. But as Obama arrives in Virginia Tuesday for a two-day swing to promote parts of his jobs plan, some Democrats are distancing themselves from him — even in supposedly blue Northern Virginia. Less than a month before critical legislative elections, several Democratic legislators say they have reservations about the president and will not commit to supporting him next year. At least one longtime state senator has announced he will not vote for Obama in 2012.”

Related: Can Obama Hold On To African-American Voters In 2012?

PRESIDENT MILLSTONE: Poll: Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney All Beat Obama.

REUTERS: Democrats Wary Of Their Unpopular President. “Four years ago, Senator Claire McCaskill was one of Barack Obama’s biggest boosters in his presidential campaign. But when he recently visited her state of Missouri, she did not have time to join him. . . . Congressional Democrats are upset, even angry, with Obama right now. They complain he has not consulted them, he moved toward the political right after Republicans won the House in the 2010 election and often has not distinguished between them and Republicans in blasting an even more unpopular Congress.” Not much love for President Millstone.

UPDATE: Drudge features a cruel juxtaposition.

PRESIDENT MILLSTONE: Hotline: Dem Poll: Obama Dragging Down His Own Party. “One of the Democratic party’s leading pollsters released a survey of 60 Republican-held battleground districts today painting an ominous picture for Congressional Democrats in 2012. The poll shows Democratic House candidates faring worse than they did in the 2010 midterms, being dragged down by an unpopular president who would lose to both Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. Pollster Stan Greenberg released the poll with some sugary spin for Democrats, downplaying the results by arguing that the president’s jobs plan will improve the party’s fortunes. . . . But the numbers – at least right now — are troubling for Democrats, and echoed some of the takeaways from the GOP special election upset in New York City last week. Instead of an overall anti-incumbent sentiment impacting members of both parties, voters are taking more of their anger out on Democrats.” With reason.

DRAGGED DOWN BY PRESIDENT MILLSTONE? Dianne Feinstein in Poll Trouble Now. It’s not too late for another Kaus candidacy!

Related: Weprin Throws Obama Under the Bus: ‘The Problem Was That He’s the President and People are Frustrated.’

ELECTORALLY HE’S PRESIDENT MILLSTONE, but legislatively he’s “President Feather.” No way Obama’s jobs bill will pass the Senate, say — Democrats?

I PREDICT THIS APPROACH WILL GROW CONSIDERABLY MORE POPULAR: Manchin’s Strategy For Surviving 2012 In A Red State: Bash Obama. As Democrats begin to see President Messiah as President Millstone, “distancing” and “localization of races” will be the new watchwords for candidates in all but the bluest areas — and maybe, given NY-09, even in those.

BLOOMBERG: Poll: Obama Approval Drops On Skepticism Of Jobs Plan. So much for the Big Speech. Looks like President Millstone laid another egg.


It’s not that Obama’s ratings are so low that even this historically Democratic district decided to send a message of disapproval. Obama’s ratings may pick up, after all.

It’s not that Israel and gay marriage emerged as medium sized ”wedge issues” (translation: issues) that drove some Democrats in a quirky district heavily populated by Orthodox Jews to vote for Republican Bob Turner. Few other districts look like NY-9. ….

It’s the possibility that the Democrats favorite issue–-Social Security-–didn’t work to save them because Obama, too, has embraced cutting Social Security and Medicare in “some undefined ‘everything on the table’ entitlement reform,” as Weigel puts it. Could it be that the differences between Obama’s Medicare cuts and GOP Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare cuts–differences that seem so significant to policy analysts in Washington (and to me)–don’t have much salience in the crude argumentation of direct-mail electioneering? Now that’s scary for a Dem. After decades of pledging not to touch the two sacred programs, it’s beginning to look as if Democrats can’t just suddenly agree to pull trillions out of Social Security and Medicare and expect voters to maintain their reflexive loyalties.


UPDATE: Obama Falls Below 50% — In California.

Related: GOP Candidate Wins By 20 Points In Nevada Race. Not a great pair of special elections for the Dems.

More: Politico: Twin defeats spark Democratic fears. “In New York, Republican Bob Turner soundly defeated Democrat David Weprin in a House contest that – in the view of party leaders, at least — featured an anemic urban machine, distracted labor unions, and disloyal voters. In Nevada, a consequential state for the president’s re-election strategy, Democrats suffered a runaway loss rooted in a weak showing in Reno’s Washoe County, a key bellwether. . . . In a high-level campaign conference call Tuesday afternoon, Democratic donors and strategists commiserated over their disappointment in Obama. A source on the call described the mood as ‘awful.’”

New 2012 slogan: Re-elect President Millstone!

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ IS TRYING TO SPIN IT, but the Dems’ defeat in NY09 is a big f—in deal, to coin a phrase. And other Democratic officeholders have to be worrying if Obama will be an electoral millstone around their necks next year.

Well, here’s a hint: Obama got no bounce from job speech, disapproval rating peaks.

EVAN BAYH, ET AL.: Dragged down by the Obama Millstone? Wow. From milestone to millstone in one year . . . .

Related: John Podesta says the American political system “sucks.” Huh. He didn’t sound that way a year ago. So is that the hope he’s feeling, or the change? . . .

UPDATE: Reader Tom Barker says I’m missing the symbolism: “Bayh announced his departure on President’s Day.” Heh.