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Reading Paul Kane

The Washington Post’s A-1 story on Republican opposition to the Democratic stimulus plan emphasizes what I learned this week in talking to Republicans about their strategy. First, there isn’t much of one. Second, what strategy there is depends on portraying the Democrats as unreasonable, big-spending bullies. They want more tax cuts; Democrats want more infrastructure spending. So Republicans are portraying the Democratic demands as contrary to the spirit of hope and change and bipartisanship asked for by the president.

I see some liberal skepticism about President Obama’s goals, such as his preference that the stimulus bill get 80 votes in the Senate, but it seems misguided. Obama’s interest is in maintaining his high approval ratings. He’s doing that — while the Republicans are getting the Paul Kanes and David Weigels of the world to air their sorrows about Congress’s partisanship, they’re not really laying a glove on Obama. Thus Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who works pretty closely with the president, is able to say things like “if it’s passed with 63 votes or 73 votes, history won’t remember it.”

That’s the point. The stimulus will pass. How much traction are Republicans gaining for the next debate, when they try to stop the president’s momentum on, for example, health care? Not much so far.

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