Zeleny | Rebrand: Obama’s a Non-ideological, Pragmatic Problem Solver or Something

The White House is in the midst of rebranding the president as a pragmatic problem solver prepared to set aside ideology to address a compelling need (see last week’s concession on ozone regulations), a reasonable man in an era dominated by extreme views. But they also emphasize that he is willing to draw distinctions with conservatives, reflecting a central tension that has defined him as a candidate and as president: that in trying to lay claim to a broad swath of the electorate, as he succeeded in doing in 2008, he risks pleasing neither the center nor the left, the story of much of his time in office.

The Republican candidates, collectively and in distinctive ways, continue to cast him as the foil against whom they ran so successfully in 2010: a big-government liberal who has expanded regulations, created uncertainty for business and failed to revive the economy, with millions more Americans out of work than when he took office. They portray him as an unsteady leader who is unequipped to turn around a country in economic crisis.

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