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Obama and the GOP

By Dan Froomkin
1:22 PM ET, 02/17/2009

So is it smart for Congressional Republicans to be betting against the stimulus -- and the president?

David Lightman writes for McClatchy Newspapers: "The Republican Party is taking a big risk by looking like the party of 'no' at a time when Americans like their new president and badly want the economy fixed.

"'The image of the party is still forming. Voters are deciding whether the Republican Party is an obstacle to progress or standing up for its ideals,' said Neil Newhouse, partner at Public Opinion Strategies, a Virginia-based Republican consulting firm."

Nevertheless: "The GOP plan is to continue demonstrating its resolve with a combination of tough opposition to what it considers as excessive government spending and government involvement in the economy and offer its own solutions."

Gerald F. Seib writes in his Wall Street Journal column: "Republicans have stood in nearly unanimous opposition to the stimulus plan, and say they have rediscovered their voice and philosophical bearings by doing so.

"White House aides, meanwhile, say Republicans have made a political mistake of historic proportions by opposing an economic rescue effort and appearing partisan in the process.

"Obviously, both sides can't be right. Just as obviously, neither side can know for sure right now."

But Seib writes: "Because the economy is so bad, gauging the success or failure of the stimulus will be hard to do for a long time....

"Under those conditions, the public's faith in the great experiment -- and its political impact -- will turn almost entirely on how much Mr. Obama is trusted. We are about to see whether we have the Great Communicator II."

Jackie Calmes writes in the New York Times about the disconnect between Republican members of Congress and governors: "Across the country, from California's Arnold Schwarzenegger to Florida's Charlie Crist and New England's Jim Douglas in Vermont and M. Jodi Rell in Connecticut, Republican governors showed in the stimulus debate that they could be allies with Mr. Obama even as Congressional Republicans spurned him....

"Leaderless after losing the White House, the party is mostly defined by its Congressional wing, which flaunted its anti-spending ideology in opposing the stimulus package. That militancy drew the mockery of late-night television comics, but the praise of conservative talk-show stars and the party faithful.

"In the states, meanwhile, many Republican governors are practicing a pragmatic — their Congressional counterparts would say less-principled — conservatism."

Meanwhile, not everyone on the left is entirely delighted with Obama.

Alec MacGillis writes in The Washington Post: "Plenty of Obama supporters are celebrating the package. They note that while it includes less social spending than what passed in the House, it represents billions of dollars in spending for Democratic priorities such as health, education and renewable energy.

"'President Obama has been in office, what, 3 1/2 weeks? And to be able to pass a stimulus package of this size, I don't think anybody would have thought that possible six weeks ago,' said Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees."

And yet, some liberal Democrats "say the bill does not go far enough" and "are already looking ahead to future legislation that they hope will do more." They "wonder whether Obama could have used the opportunity of a large congressional majority and a moment of economic emergency to pass a bigger package, with a better chance of boosting the economy and with more of his priorities intact."

And Peter Wallsten writes in the Los Angeles Times: "Slowly over the last few weeks, some of Barack Obama's most fervent supporters have come to an unhappy realization: The candidate who they thought was squarely on their side in policy fights is now a president who needs cajoling and persuading."

Wallsten examines Obama's actions on stem cell research, faith-based initiatives, and detainee policy.

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