Why, oh why, is the Obama administration spending so much time three weeks before the election attacking the Chamber of Commerce? There are different theories.
Democrats might actually believe that it will help them win votes--remember, they thought suing Arizona over its immigration law would boost Hispanic support (they were just badly mistaken). The DNC sent out a Bloomberg poll that shows 47 percent of voters are less likely to vote for a candidate whose "campaign was aided by advertising paid for by anonymous business groups." But the real question is where this "issue" falls on the list of voters' priorities. It seems unlikely that it's high enough to actually motivate people to vote.
Glenn Reynolds thinks that the attacks are all "about constructing a narrative of defeat for their base, so that when they get clobbered in November they can blame it on scheming billionaires and evil foreigners instead of admitting that they elected an empty suit, and proceeded to push a wildly unpopular program over the clearly stated objections of a large majority of American voters." That seems like a plausible theory. They don't want 2010 to be seen as a referendum on Obamacare.
But I think that the attacks on the Chamber aren't so much about 2010 as they are about 2012. Obama might not be able to stop the Chamber from funding attack ads now--but he may be able to deter other corporate groups from spending big money against him. The Obama administration may deter other groups by showing them that they will pay a price for their political activites. Democrats in Minnesota effectively beat Target into submission for funding a group that backed the state's GOP gubernatorial candidate, and that was probably the goal here with the attacks on the Chamber. As a Chamber of Commerce official tells ABC's Jake Tapper:
What this administration wants is a list of who the companies are who are contributors, and we saw last year, Jake, why, when we very publicly ran ads against the patients protections and affordable care act, quoting the CBO, quoting the head of CMS, the Centers for Medicare Services, that it would not in fact bend the cost curve down, that it would bend the cost curve up as they testified before the senate finance committee, there was an attempt to try and find out who were the corporations that were contributing to that effort.
When some of those corporate names were divulged, not by us, by others, what did they receive? They received protests, they received threats, they were intimidated, they were harassed, they had to hire additional security, they were recipients of a host of proxies leveled at those companies that had nothing to do with the purpose of those companies. So we know what the purpose here is. It's to harass and intimidate.
Of course, at this point most of the money for the 2010 cycle has already been given away. Considering the blowback the administration has faced this past week, the hope of deterring corporations from spending on 2012 may have backfired.