Obama's Advised to Act More Like Reagan

Obama must bond with Congress, but go to the people as well.

By + More

Official Washington is increasingly focused on President Obama's planned speech about the economy next month. It's shaping up as an important moment for the country, unsettled by the high unemployment rate and other economic woes, and for Obama himself. If the economy doesn't improve, and soon, he could easily be a one-term president. White House officials say Obama's latest prescriptions are still being developed, but he's getting lots of advice, especially on the need to sell his ideas with a sustained, aggressive campaign.

"He needs to come out with a plan and sell it to the American people, not just in one speech but over several months, and not by lambasting but by building a consensus with the American people," Republican strategist Ken Duberstein told me. [See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP hopefuls.]

Duberstein, who was White House chief of staff for President Ronald Reagan, endorsed Obama in 2008 but says Obama has gotten off on the wrong track in some ways. Duberstein's model is the Gipper. He notes that Reagan used two approaches to accomplish his goals--working closely with congressional leaders, including then-House Speaker Tip O'Neill, and campaigning for his ideas at the grass roots. The second technique was designed to generate pressure on Congress from around the country. Many critics don't think Obama has used this strategy enough.

Obama advisers won't divulge their PR game plan, but an extended "rollout" is expected after his speech on an as-yet unspecified date in September. They say the economic blueprint will include both new ideas and familiar ones, such as more federal spending on construction projects and tax breaks for the middle class.

  • Vote now: Who is your pick for the 2012 GOP nomination?
  • Read more about the 2012 presidential election.
  • See a photo gallery of Ronald Reagan.