We are rapidly approaching the moment at which Washington reevaluates the Obama campaign’s reputation for competence and expertise. Every week, one or several of Obama’s surrogates trip over their own words; every day, Jim Messina and David Plouffe and David Axelrod must scratch their heads in wonder at the mess they are creating. One gaffe is an isolated event. Two is an embarrassment. But three or more form a pattern, one that is damaging not only Obama’s precarious chances for reelection but also the fortunes of the Democratic Party.
The most recent trouble arrived last Sunday in the person of Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who went fantastically off message when he said his fellow Democrats’ attacks on Mitt Romney’s background in private equity are “nauseating.” The Obama for America hazardous waste disposal team leapt into action, forcing Booker torecord a hostage-video-like recantation of his comments by the end of the day. It was too late, though. Booker had tested the waters of intra-Democrat dissent and had found they were warm. Dianne Feinstein, Chris Coons, Steve Rattner, Ed Rendell,Artur Davis, Harold Ford Jr., Mark Warner, and Joe Manchin all followed him in.
What Obama intended as an attack on the business practices of Bain Capital transmogrified into a debate over the fairness of that attack. The press hates hypocrites, and it did not take much digging to report that Obama raised more from private equity in the 2008 cycle than any other candidate, and that the president’s negative ad buy went up on the very day he held a $35,800 per plate fundraised in New York City with the president of private equity firm Blackstone.