Democrats want heads to roll in Obama's inner circle
Published 03/11/2010 | 05:00
Well before polling stations closed yesterday, leading Democratic figures started baying for blood among the most prominent members of President Barack Obama's inner circle.
Convinced that the White House could have limited the heavy losses expected in the mid-term elections, there was frustration and anger at the confused messages sent out during a long and brutal campaign for Democrats.
"Heads must roll," said a senior consultant who was involved in advising candidates in several of the key races. "They need to remake the communications shop across the board, and they need to remake the political shop across the board, and they need some new thinking."
There is a growing consensus among powerful party figures in Washington that some or all of the four closest advisers to Mr Obama, who have been at his side for years, must move on. Those aides are David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs, Valerie Jarrett and David Plouffe.
"It's business, it's not personal. You are the president of the United States, this is not a fraternity. If this means letting friends go, so be it," said the consultant.
Some Democrats are furious at what they see as Mr Obama's betrayal of his party and greater interest in his own 2012 re-election than the welfare of fellow Democrats this year.
Paul Begala, a former senior aide to Bill Clinton, has said he was "appalled" by Mr Obama's decision to endorse Lincoln Chafee, an independent candidate for governor in Rhode Island rather than the Democrat, Frank Caprio.
In response, Mr Caprio said Mr Obama could take his endorsement and "shove it".
Mr Obama's gesture was seen as a back scratch for Mr Chafee's early support of Mr Obama in 2008, and a conscious effort, with an eye on 2012, to appeal to vital independent voters.
The White House also worked in vain behind the scenes to persuade Democrat Kendrick Meeks to drop out of the Senate race in Florida to boost the chances of Charlie Crist, the independent.
"We have a Democratic White House actually helping to get two independents elected," said the consultant, who asked not to be named.
"I am angry, real angry. It's just not cool. It's contrary to what any party should stand for, and that's why people are so irate. You go into an election you know could be a bloodbath and you are trying to get independent candidates elected? What is that?"
Another adviser to mid-term candidates said the White House's strategy had been "muddled and wrong".
Mr Obama made personal attacks on Congressman John Boehner, the Republican who is likely to be the next speaker of the House. Mr Obama also went on an offensive about anonymous campaign donations. Neither issue, however, resonated with voters.
"American electoral politics is very simple. You talk about the primary concerns of voters. The challenging part is getting the right message that speaks to those concerns, but they did neither," he said.
Another former Clinton official said Mr Obama had failed to offer a vision of how he would lead the country out of the recession.
"Americans are angry and the question is why. Obama's answer is we did hard things and suffered from not explaining them well, but that's not quite it. There were actually policies such as healthcare and the stimulus that people were not entirely happy with but the White House never seemed to get that," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)