Obama recalls key aide to avoid rout in elections

Election supremo to lead embattled Democrat in to vital mid-term elections

Stephen Foley
Monday 25 January 2010 01:00

Barack Obama has called back the architect of his insurgent campaign for the presidency to take charge of Democrat efforts to avoid a rout in this year's mid-term elections.

Stung by the loss of the Massachusetts Senate seat to Republicans last week, the White House move is part of a broader effort to regain the political agenda and rebuild the reforming coalition that swept Mr Obama to power.

The President had hoped to use his first State of the Union address this week to herald a successful healthcare reform package. But instead, after that key electoral defeat, he will focus on the economy, on the deficit and on demands for change on Wall Street, while still promising to fight for the comprehensive health package that he still hopes to get through Congress.

The appointment of David Plouffe, Mr Obama's presidential campaign manager, may have a more material effect on the future of the party. Mr Plouffe was called to the White House last Tuesday, as it became clear Mr Brown was headed for victory, and told to re-energise the grass-roots movement he assembled via the internet and text messaging.

Although Mr Plouffe has continued to be an informal adviser to the White House, he has spent most of his time writing and promoting a book about the campaign, called The Audacity to Win. His new role overseeing all the Senate, House and gubernatorial races this year gives the White House a powerful advocate inside the party election machine as it gears up for what could be a serious challenge to hold on to majorities in both Houses of Congress.

The White House has played down the idea that Mr Plouffe's expanded influence represented a major shake-up in response to the surprise loss of independent voters in Massachusetts. David Axelrod, the President's chief strategist, said: "We want all our best players on the field for 2010 and he is the best of the best when it comes to marrying strategy and tactics."

Senior Democrats fanned out across the media over the weekend to assert that the victory of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts did not represent a popular uprising against the Obama agenda, but rather was another example of the anti-Washington sentiment that the President tapped in 2008. Mr Brown's campaign capitalised on public discontent and the perception that the healthcare bills before Congress were too big and not central to the task of repairing the economy.

The State of the Union address to Congress on Wednesday will be a chance for President Obama to set out his agenda for the coming year. He has stepped up populist rhetoric against Wall Street and promised to fight for middle-class families on the economy.

And in Mr Plouffe's first public statement as campaign supremo, he had some striking advice to Democrats, "No bed-wetting".

In an article in the Washington Post, he urged party members not to cave in on efforts to pass comprehensive healthcare reform, and also to tout the benefits of last year's $787bn economic stimulus package. "In 2006 and 2008, voters sent an unmistakable message: We want decisive change," he wrote. "This was not just a change of political parties.

"Instead of a government that works for the entitled and special interests, a government that looks out for Wall Street, they wanted a government that works better for them."

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