The Corner

Schumer Declares War on the Tea Party

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), the Democrats’ chief political messenger, is up to old tricks. In a memo to his Democratic colleagues, Schumer lays out his preferred strategy of blaming “Tea Party Republicans” for the sorry state of the economy. In this case, Schumer argues, Democrats should blame the  “extreme” GOP opposition to the President Obama’s jobs bill (defeated last night in the Senate) for putting the economy at risk. As the debate over jobs moves forward, he writes, “the Tea Party’s growing unpopularity has the potential to be the GOP’s Achilles’ Heel.”

Recent polling appears to confirm Schumer’s claim that the Tea Party’s popularity is waning. A CNN poll in late September found just 28 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement, while 53 percent had an unfavorable view, signaling a steady decline over the past year. Schumer is hoping to capitalized on this perceived weakness.

“With the economy at a crossroads, the GOP’s current political strategy — block anything that could improve the economy, lest it boost the President’s standing — has the potential to backfire,” Schumer writes. “By linking the GOP to its extreme Tea Party fringe, Democrats can bolster the prospects for the President’s jobs ideas, or at least make clear who is responsible for the stalling of the recovery.”

He goes on to coin a number of new terms that you can expect to hear parroted ad nauseam by Democrats and other liberal talking heads in the coming weeks and months: “Democrats can make this link by branding the school of thought that resists against any job-creation measures as ‘Tea Party economics.’ The opponents of the President’s jobs proposals should be invoked as ‘Tea Party Republicans.’ If their obstruction continues, it will risk a ‘Tea Party recession.’”

At the same time, Senate Democrats will seek to advance the president’s plan “one plank at a time.” As they do, Schumer argues, “it will only get harder for Republicans to sustain their blanket opposition to the President’s policies.”

Schumer’s strategy is to essentially to get Senate Democrats in line with the Obama administration campaign, seeking to pin the blame for the poor economy on Republicans, despite the fact that they control only one house of Congress. It may be a tough sell, however, as a number of Senate Democrats, particularly those up for reelection in 2012, have also expressed opposition to the president’s plan, which failed on a cloture motion last night in the Senate, 50–49 . However, taking into account the three Democrats (Lieberman, Manchin, and Webb) who voted for cloture but said they could not support passage of the bill in its current form, and the absence of Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla), who is recovering from prostate surgery, a more accurate reflection of the Senate’s support would be 47–53. The president likes to claim that his jobs plan is full of bipartisan ideas, but at the point the only thing bipartisan about it is the opposition.

Schumer, though, is apparently convinced this is a winning strategy, telling reporters this morning that it is “almost impossible” that Democrats will lose the Senate in 2012.

UPDATE: You might be surprised to hear that, according to Schumer, Democrats do not control the Senate. Ezra Klein reports:

A reporter asked Schumer why voters were supposed to blame Republicans for economic outcomes when Democrats control the White House and the Senate. “We don’t control the Senate,” Schumer shot back. “You write that and it’s false.”

Andrew StilesAndrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...


The Latest