So the question some Dems on the Hill are asking is this. Now that we’re seeing the outlines of Obama’s budget, which sets up major looming fights with the opposition over health care and many other items, will we see the White House sporting a meaner operation this time around? Is the White House determined to learn from their stim missteps, such as they were, and gear up the right message faster?I don't know if others have said this already, but it seems obvious to me that passing an economic stimulus package was simply never an animating issue to the White House in the same way something like health care or energy reform would be. As much as the policy was seen as genuinely necessary by Democratic lawmakers up to and including the president, it clearly was not the sort of thing liberals have been dreaming about -- and plotting out an approach to -- for ages.
To be sure, polling indicated that the Obama team had won the stimulus war. But some Dems -- Rahm included -- think that the White House could nonetheless have done a better job, and Dems on the Hill say they’re hoping the White House takes the last fight to heart.
In light of this, is it really a surprise that the White House wasn't maximally politically effective selling it?
Now, the result may or may not be any different with future legislation. A stimulus package that passes with three Republican votes still passes, and indeed the pick-off-a-few-Republican-senators model may end up being the story of the next couple of years. But I would be very surprised if the political theater around health care reform and the rest weren't much smoother and better-thought-out, and not just because of things the White House learned during the stimulus battle. They're just things that Democrats have been thinking about for a lot longer.