In one of his now infamous “pivots,” President Obama on Thursday tried to change the subject and redirect the national conversation to the economy. The president went to Northwestern University, appearing before the kind of crowd that is traditionally kind to him — students — trying to convince them that America is better off economically under his leadership.

But as The Washington Post reports, in a piece by politics blogger and White House correspondent Chris Cillizza, that message may well be overshadowed by only a few of Obama’s words — words that Cillizza says could give Republicans incredibly powerful ammo for campaign ads against Obama’s unpopular policies and programs.

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Obama just gave every Republican ad-maker in the country more fodder for negative ads linking Democratic candidates to him.
Here are the four sentences that will draw all of the attention (they come more than two thirds of the way through the speech): “I am not on the ballot this fall. Michelle’s pretty happy about that. But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.” Boil those four sentences down even further and here’s what you are left with: “Make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.”
There you go, GOP ad producers — the ominous 14 words, courtesy of Barack Obama himself: “Make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot.  Every single one of them.”

For a guy whose supporters and defenders claim is so smart, so insightful, and so politically tuned in — a guy who supposedly surrounds himself with the best and the brightest — to deliver this sort of midterms gift to his political opponents would seem to be an uncharacteristic blunder.

However, if you consider the degree to which Obama has appeared to be extraordinarily out of touch lately — exhibit #1 would be Obama’s blaming poor intelligence reports for his being caught off guard by the rapid rise of ISIS, which was easily debunked — if you consider his apparent detachment, even disinterest, you might better understand his/his speech writers’ poor choice of words and terrible timing.
Again, from Chris Cilliza’s piece in The Post:

It doesn’t take a political mastermind to realize that an ad in which the President of the United States says “Make no mistake: These policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them” might not be helpful to the Democratic candidates trying to run away from him this November.
Obama’s popularity is badly hurting. He generally has poor approval ratings in states where Democrats are struggling to stay competitive in key Senate races. The president’s numbers on front-of-the-mind issues such as the economy, national security, and health care are seen as heavy weights on candidates in his own party who are trying desperately to distance themselves from an unpopular leader.

So, those 14 words — captured forever on video…available forever to GOP ad masters — could soon show up in campaign spots across the country.

As The Washington Post’s Chris Cilliza observes, trying in that way to rally the Democrat base at this point — if that’s what Obama was hoping to do — may well be a fatal political mistake.
I think that underestimates the impact of an unpopular president (on video no less!) bluntly insisting that an election in 33 days is indeed a referendum on his policies. Republicans couldn’t have written a better script than that.
Image Credit: youtube | The White House