Gov. Ed Rendell said on Sunday that the Obama administration had botched the messaging wars when it came to selling its economic agenda and that it would be hard for the White House to regain the upper hand.
Appearing on ABC's This Week, the Pennsylvania Democrat said it was ironic that "the best communicator in the history of political campaigning turned out in his first year in office to not communicate very well." He was referring, specifically, to what went wrong when it came to selling the president's stimulus package.
"They let the Republicans take the spin right from the beginning," said Rendell. "The stimulus got beat up before one dollar was spent. What I would have done...I would have had him make a speech to the nation, break down what stimulus because a lot of the stimulus, it wasn't job creation, but was safety net. But not a safety net for people on welfare, a safety net for hardworking Americans who lost their jobs, extending unemployment benefit. Is there anybody in the Congress -- Republicans aren't going to raise their hands and vote against that, right? Everybody is in favor of that. That was an important component of the stimulus. COBRA, health care benefits, for people who lost their jobs. But we never explained it from the get go and we lost the spin war. The stimulus has done a great job for America, but we lost the spin war. And once you lose it, it's hard to get it back."
When reflecting on an unpopular policy, it's always easy to blame the message rather than the policy itself (often to the great lament of the press shop working on the issue). In regards to the stimulus, however, Rendell's point has been echoed by many others. Had the plan been pitched for what it was -- a lifeline for a drowning economy rather than catalyst for the jobs market -- the ability for the GOP to make political hay would be greatly diminished.