West Wing Briefing: What will Gibbs and Co. say about Sestak's victory?
By Michael D. Shear
On Monday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs deflected questions about the upcoming primary voting by promising that he would be "happy to talk about the results when they happen. ... I'm happy to spend some time ... when we get results, or Wednesday, talking about what they mean."
You can bet the reporters who gather in the West Wing today will take him up on his offer.
The highest-profile race in Tuesday's primaries -- the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania -- went against the president and the rest of the Democratic establishment, which had bet on Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter -- and lost to Rep. Joe Sestak.
What that means for Obama will certainly be among the first questions Gibbs gets asked by reporters today. As of Tuesday night, the official White House schedule did not indicate that Gibbs was planning to hold a daily briefing today, but he's certain to make himself available on this subject.
(To be fair to Gibbs, briefings don't happen every day. And it's an exceptionally busy day at the White House. Obama is hosting the president of Mexico for meetings this morning and will hold a short press conference around noon, followed by an official state dinner
With the midterm elections only six months away, the chattering class in Washington is eager to read the tea leaves from last night's elections.
What will Gibbs and his colleagues say?
While he declined to talk about it at Monday's briefing, White House aides have said privately for days that they do not believe Specter's loss is a reflection of anything significant where Obama is concerned.
They argue that Democrats in Pennsylvania chose between two Democrats who both supported Obama and his policies. The fact that one or the other won, they argued, would say little about the president's popularity or agenda.
Top Obama aides also argue that the real race to watch last night was the special election in Pennsylvania's 12th district, which was won handily by the Democrat in Tuesday's voting despite having trended heavily Republican in 2008. That victory will give Gibbs and the other White House officials a lot to crow about.
As the only race last night that pitted a Republican against a Democrat, Gibbs argued in an e-mail late Tuesday that the Pennsylvania 12 race "is the type of race the GOP has to win."
Obama's aides have tended to ignore the fact that the Democratic winner in the 12th District -- Mark Critz -- campaigned against many of the president's policies, including the health-care bill that is the signature achievement of Obama's tenure so far.
One senior White House official predicted early in the week that media personalities would chatter for hours about the Specter race, and said it would all be overblown.
Cable networks did not disappoint them, focusing throughout the evening Tuesday on Specter's loss, and talking for hours about what the outcome means for Obama.
They noted repeatedly that Obama (and longtime Specter friend Joe
Biden) had worked hard to get Specter to become a Democrat last year.
Among the questions asked by pundits was whether Specter's loss calls into question the strength of Obama's campaign machine.
The White House effort to play down that storyline was probably not helped by Specter supporters who invoked Obama's name on Tuesday, predicting throughout the day that they would get a win in Pennsylvania for their president.
And Sestak's victory speech included the exhortation that his defeat of Specter amounted to a win "for the people ... even over Washington D.C.," a clear reference to Obama's support of Specter's candidacy.
But the West Wing may have been helped by the other action last night, especially in Kentucky, where Rand Paul, the son of Rep. Ron Paul, was carried to victory in a Republican Senate primary on the strength of "tea party" support.
That gives the media another story to pursue: the continuing evidence of a split between establishment Republicans and the conservative tea party movement.
You can bet that Gibbs and Co. would be happy for the press to focus on that.
Michael D. Shear
May 19, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency
Save & Share: Previous: Lincoln the 'Comeback Kid?' Halter camp charges hypocrisy
Next: Rand Paul's primary win in Kentucky leaves his father beaming
Posted by: itkonlyyou70 | May 19, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: theoldmansays | May 19, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: scrivener50 | May 19, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: launchloan | May 19, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: katem1 | May 19, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: flintston | May 19, 2010 8:49 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: flintston | May 19, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.