President Obama is "in a world of hurt" because his agenda has run aground and his influence is waning, a prominent Republican strategist says.
"He has little sway over his own party, it seems," argues Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a senior White House adviser to President George W. Bush. "His ability to shape events is on the decline."
This is partly because so many of his policies are unpopular or highly polarizing, such as the health-care law known as "Obamacare," Gillespie says, and also because his job-approval ratings are below 50 percent, which is considered a sign of weakness.
"His policies haven't turned the economy around," Gillespie notes. "It's bumping along, at best. He's going to have a long three years. ... People are having a very tough time" because the economy is stagnant and unemployment is relatively high. Obama is trying to persuade Americans to accept this "as the new normal when it used to be the old dismal," Gillespie says.
White House officials argue that, while Washington is locked in stalemate on many issues, Obama still has various ways in which he can advance his initiatives. One is the bully pulpit. Obama has made a series of speeches making his case to the country for his economic agenda, which includes more federal investment in infrastructure and education.
On Tuesday, he urged Republicans to accept a "grand bargain for the middle class" which calls for reducing the corporate tax rate, a one-time transition fee to provide an infusion of revenue, and increased spending on projects that Obama says will create jobs.
Speaking in Chattanooga, Tenn., the president declared, "Here's the bottom line: I'm willing to work with Republicans on reforming our corporate tax code, as long as we use the money from transitioning to a simpler tax system for a significant investment in creating middle-class jobs. That's the deal."
Congressional Republicans, however, said Obama needs to accept big spending cuts and tax reform for everyday Americans, not just corporations, before they agree to any grand bargain.
Another way in which Obama can get his way is to bypass Congress with executive orders and other forms of unilateral action. His Environmental Protection Agency is already preparing various actions to limit climate change. And Obama has been asking leaders and activists who visit the White House to suggest other unilateral actions that his administration can take to accomplish worthwhile goals despite the opposition of congressional Republicans.
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Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.