President Obama got a failing grade for political rhetoric from a fellow Democrat today, as Connecticut Gov.-elect Dan Malloy complained that he was able to eke out a victory despite the “weak job” in messaging from the White House.
Speaking at a Monday meeting of the New Democratic Leadership Council, Malloy leveled a blistering critique of the White House communications effort on nearly every major issue of the last two years, from bailouts to the foreclosure crisis.
“This highly disciplined campaign for the presidency seemed to fall apart in a very short period of time when it came to discipline necessary to get the story out on what they actually had accomplished,” he said.
Malloy defeated Republican Tom Foley by only 7,000 votes in one of the country’s closest races to become Connecticut’s first Democratic governor in 24 years. His win was one of the party’s few bright spots in a year that saw Republicans claim 29 governorships, including marquee races in Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin. He is the latest Democrat to blame the party’s Election Day defeats on the president’s communications effort, which critics say has not been nearly forceful or disciplined enough.
Malloy said he was able to win—barely—because he was more effective at selling the Democratic agenda than the president. He cited a litany of examples, from expanding access to student loans to bailing out the auto industry, where, he argued, Obama and his team fumbled golden opportunities to show how he was helping voters. In each instance, he said the president’s team either didn’t seem to have a message or abandoned the one it once had within days.
The administration has done a “particularly weak job telling its side of the story,” Malloy said. If the president and his team don’t become more effective, he warned, they will continue be blamed for a continued economic slump in the next two years.
Malloy contended that the current Congress will go down as one of the most effective since President Franklin Roosevelt’s first term. “But nobody knows it—nobody understands it,” he added.
The former Stamford mayor stuck mostly to criticizing the White House’s communications strategy, but did reserve one policy critique for the president’s federal stimulus: Democrats committed a “gigantic mistake” by funneling much of the federal stimulus money through states instead of local governments, he said, citing an example of the incumbent governor in Connecticut spending $80 million of it to order buses from another state.
“Let me assure you, no mayor in their right mind would have made such an order,” he said, adding that the money would have been much more rapidly and effectively spent in the hands of mayors and other local officials.