President Obama spoke yesterday at the Building and Construction Trades Department Conference, delivering a spirited message to union allies, but also taking some time to note those responsible for standing in the way of labor's goals.
Speaking specifically about infrastructure, Obama revived the "party of no" theme that hasn't gotten much attention lately.
"Again and again, I've said now is the time do this; interest rates are low, construction workers are out of work. Contractors are begging for work, and the work needs to be done. Let's do it. And time after time, the Republicans have gotten together and they've said no.
"I sent them a jobs bill that would have put hundreds of thousands of construction workers back to work repairing our roads, our bridges, schools, transit systems, along with saving the jobs of cops and teachers and firefighters, creating a new tax cut for businesses. They said no.
"I went to the Speaker's hometown, stood under a bridge that was crumbling. Everybody acknowledges it needs to be rebuilt.... They still said no.
"There are bridges between Kentucky and Ohio where some of the key Republican leadership come from, where folks are having to do detours an extra hour, hour and a half drive every day on their commute because these bridges don't work. They still said no. So then I said, well, maybe they couldn't handle the whole bill in one big piece. Let's break it up. Maybe it's just too much for them. So I sent them just the part of the bill that would have created these construction jobs. They said no."
Now, part of this clearly has to do with assigning responsibility. Obama wanted this audience to know he sided with them and congressional Republicans didn't.
But as Greg Sargent explained yesterday, there's also a larger thematic effort underway. "Party of no" is making a comeback in part because the president's campaign team is "burnishing Obama's character, by painting him as willing to persevere against implacable opposition -- represented here by the GOP itself -- and tremendous odds."
We talked briefly yesterday about the Obama campaign's new video, making the case for the president's re-election, but did you catch the section on Republicans saying no to everything? The narrator notes that Obama "persevered" against Republican intransigence.
With this in mind, Greg's take rings true:
The revival of the "party of No" phrase in this way points to a strategic dilemma the Obama campaign faces. The question surrounding Obama's constant railing against GOP obstructionism has long been: Will swing voters care? [...]
Resolving this problem is what's driving the effort to highlight GOP obstructionism -- along with inheriting two wars and the worst financial crisis in decades -- as yet another obstacle Obama persevered against. Obama and his team recently concluded they needed to reframe the standoff with the GOP as one that didn't showcase Obama's inability to get things done in the face of political obstructionism but as one that demonstrates Obama's continued action, in spite of determined and implacable opposition, via the exercise of executive power and his "We Can't Wait" campaign.
It's a campaign theme well worth watching.