President Obama lost the battle over his $447 billion job-creation bill but may have taken a step toward winning the war.
The Senate's rejection of the measure last night was clearly a defeat for Obama, who had campaigned vigorously across the country for the measure, including stops in the battleground states of Pennsylvania and Florida yesterday.
The odds were always slim that Obama could prevail in a Senate where Democrats hold only a slim majority but where 60 votes are needed to pass major legislation. The jobs bill lost on a 50-49 vote on a motion to shut off debate, which failed.
But winning approval of the measure wasn't really the point, say Democratic strategists. Obama would have preferred passage, but his goal was to dramatize the GOP's opposition, which he billed as a rebuff of the middle class and an effort to protect the rich. Democratic strategists say this will be a potent issue for him in the 2012 campaign.
"Tonight's vote is by no means the end of this fight," Obama said after votes were cast. "In the coming days, members of Congress will have to take a stand on whether they believe we should put teachers, construction workers, police officers and fire fighters back on the job." He plans to ask Congress to approve these and other parts of the measure in separate pieces.
A Democratic strategist with close ties to the administration said, "Most Americans approve of the key elements of the plan," such as tax cuts for middle-class families and small businesses, tax hikes on millionaires, and federal spending to build roads and bridges.
But Republicans say the bill was deeply flawed because it contained tax increases on the wealthy and big corporations which create jobs, and it would have substantially increased the deficit. Some GOP legislators say they are open to approving parts of the bill.