Democrats Try to Change the Subject from Debt to Jobs

The long dispute hurt Democrats as they look toward 2012

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Now that President Obama has signed the bill raising the federal debt limit into law, Democrats hope they're done talking about the stupid thing. The weeks of debate over the debt limit have been politically costly: 77 percent of voters thought "elected officials in Washington" acted like "spoiled children" during the debate, a CNN poll finds. Voters give Republicans more credit than Obama for crafting the deal. And Obama's approval rating has slowly drifted downwards since June. So that helps explain why just minutes after the deal passed the Senate, Chuck Schumer told reporters "It is now time for Congress to get back to our regularly scheduled program and that means jobs," The Hill's Erik Wasson reports. Schumer explained that jobs are Democrats' "strong suit." Unlike the debt, it seems.

Schumer said "the jobs issue won't have to play second fiddle to the deficit issue anymore." Wasson reports that sentiment reflects the bitterness of some Democratic aides, who thought the debt ceiling deal was the best chance to extend unemployment insurance or create another payroll tax holiday. Vice President Joe Biden, too, insisted Monday, according to Mike Allen "we will be talking about nothing ... but about jobs." And upon signing the debt bill, Obama said, "While Washington has been absorbed in this debate about deficits, people across the country are asking: what can we do to help the father looking for work? What are we going to do for the single mom who has seen her hours cut back at the hospital?"
Obama's approval ratings show that "when you mess with Congress, you get brought down to its level," First Read says. And now he wants to rise above. But The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty argues it won't be that easy. The debate was "a clarifying moment--one that could define the terms of engagement of the 2012 election and shape the battle as one of two vastly different governing philosophies." Tumulty continues:
Whoever the Republican presidential nominee turns out to be, it now looks likely that President Obama's battle for reelection will be fought around big issues. Chief among them: the size and role of government, and the values that will set priorities for a diminished pool of resources in austere times.
"This had nothing to do with the debt ceiling," said Mickey Edwards, a former Republican congressman who runs a political leadership program for elected officials at the Aspen Institute. "This was about the 2012 election, and the lines were drawn about as clearly as possible on both sides."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.