The Stimulus Vote: Who’s Playing Who?

I’ve been thinking about the vote on the stimulus package and I’m wondering if President Obama is playing the Republicans.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Obama’s plan A was to get bipartisan support and pass the bill with both Democrats and Republicans on board. That way the stimulus couldn’t really become politicized as a Democrats vs. Republicans issue.

But this has made me wonder about plan B:

Pushing back against the unanimous House Republican vote against President Obama’s stimulus plan, the White House plans to release state-by-state job figures “so we can put a number on what folks voted for and against,” an administration aide said.

“It’s clear the Republicans who voted against the stimulus represent constituents who will be stunned to learn their member of Congress voted against [saving or] creating 4 million jobs,” the aide said.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the lawmakers will have to answer to their constituents. And a Democratic official added: “We will run campaigns in their districts.”

So, let’s walk through this–Obama’s plan A is to win Republican support. So he makes concessions. He bends over backwards. He has high-profile meetings with Congressional Republicans. He ends up drafting a bill with a lot of Republican-friendly policies in it.

But the GOP opposes the bill en masse, killing plan A.  They think they beat Obama, getting a ton of giveaways without having to pay a political price by voting for the stimulus. The GOP celebrates, thinking they just got something for nothing.

But Obama has a plan B. Once the bill passes, the White House is going to keep track of the effects of the stimulus district by district. Come the 2010 elections, there will be solid data available on how the stimulus package helped people in nearly every Congressional district. Democratic candidates across the country will run against the GOP, waving economic reports from the White House and accusing them of voting against a bill that created jobs in their district.

Now the Republicans are afraid. They wanted to avoid the political repercussions  of supporting the stimulus, but they never stopped to think about the consequences of opposing it. Now the White House has signaled their intention to make sure there are consequences of opposing it, and the GOP is suddenly rethinking their strategy.

Behold:

House Republicans are reacting strongly to reports that the White House plans a political onslaught to pressure Republicans into supporting the stimulus package and to punish those who don’t.

House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) will soon issue a statement contending that Obama’s promise to “put an end to petty politics” is “threatened” as the White House and their allies “are making political threats rather than crafting a bipartisan economic stimulus plan.”

It looks like Obama might have just started running circles around the Republicans.  The stimulus package isn’t an abstract–it’s a piece of legislation designed to create jobs.  Even if the economy is still bad in 2010, who is going to vote for a Republican who opposed a bill that ended up creating a few thousand new jobs in their district?

The GOP thought they would spend this weekend celebrating, but now they’re worrying if Wednesday’s vote–which seemed like such a good idea at the time–will cost them come 2010.

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