White House Lays Foundation for Post-Election Damage Control

by Nathan L. Gonzales July 20, 2010 · 11:34 AM EDT

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs created a firestorm by admitting that the House majority is in play, but House Democrats should be more worried about his subsequent analysis rather than his political prognostications.

“But I think there's no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control. There's no doubt about that,” Gibbs said on Meet the Press on July 11. “This will depend on strong campaigns by Democrats.”

Did you catch that?

This fall’s elections will depend how individual Democrats campaign, not the performance of the President. And it sounds an awful lot like the spin coming out of the Democratic losses in Virginia and Massachusetts not long ago.

Gibbs’ remarks probably weren’t accidental or merely off the cuff analysis. That’s not how White House operatives normally operate. Given that, Gibbs’ comments have to be seen as part of the messaging coming out of the White House.

Nine days before Gibbs sat down with David Gregory, veteran Washington Post reporter Dan Balz wrote a piece about Democratic prospects in November, and senior Obama advisers David Axelrod and David Plouffe sounded similar themes.

“Plouffe and other Democratic strategists say Obama will play an important role in making the case that the Republican Party is one of obstruction and indifference,” Balz wrote, “But they think the outcome in November will depend as much on the skill of candidates in mobilizing potential supporters who are now disinclined to vote”

Again, the emphasis is on the candidates – not the national political context.

“The Democratic National Committee has begun a program designed to increase turnout in November among the first-time and irregular voters who backed Obama in 2008,” Balz wrote later in the piece, “But advisers say many of these voters won't show up in November unless candidates make personal connections with them.”

Again, it’s incumbent upon Democratic candidates to make the personal connection with voters. If they don’t, it’s their own fault.

House Democrats have good reason to be paranoid, because the White House has already started laying down the argument that if the party gets clobbered in November, it’s because it ran too many Creigh Deedses and Martha Coakleys and not because voters are upset at the President and the direction of the country.