Skip to main content

Obama not celebrating Gulf news yet

By Ed Henry, CNN Senior White House Correspondent
  • The Obama administration's momentum was sped up by health care reform in March
  • But the Gulf oil spill and the Greek debt crisis have since slowed that momentum
  • Obama tells Democratic leaders he plans to be aggressive going into November midterm elections
  • Obama says the vote is a "choice" -- GOP policies of the past or Democrats' of the future

Washington (CNN) -- Inside the West Wing of the White House, President Barack Obama's top aides call it "the G's" -- the Gulf oil spill and the Greek debt crisis, two major crises that have slowed the administration's mojo, though officials are hopeful it will get better before the midterm election.

When the president went behind closed doors with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and other top Senate Democrats at the White House on Tuesday, senior Democratic officials familiar with the conversation tell CNN that Obama recalled that "things were looking up" for his party in April after the signing of health care reform on March 23.

But the officials said Obama noted to the senators that the momentum was slowed by the Gulf oil spill that started with an explosion on April 20, just weeks after that health care signing, coupled with the Greek debt crisis that over the same time period has spread across world markets and helped slow the economic recovery in the United States.

Obama made clear in private that he realizes Democrats will face a head wind in the midterm election, according to the officials, but he added that he plans to be aggressive about making sure the November vote is a "choice" between Republican policies of the past and Democratic policies of the future.

The officials said Obama talked in private about personally campaigning to sell the administration's accomplishments -- from the stimulus plan to health care reform and now financial regulatory reform -- while also focusing on efforts to create jobs.

"He wants to focus on jobs -- a simple messaging contrast with Republicans," one of the Democratic officials said of the strategy session.

But after taking that simple jobs message to Michigan on Thursday, the President was pulled back into the Gulf story again when he returned to the White House in the early evening, though this time it was potential good news about how the oil flow had been stopped -- at least temporarily.

Senior White House aides say they will not celebrate until tests by BP and the government show for sure that the crisis is finally turning the corner for the better, a point the president reinforced when he was asked about the oil stoppage after he made a statement about Wall Street reform's passage in the Senate.

"I think it is a positive sign," Obama said carefully about the news from the Gulf. "We're still in the testing phase. I'll have more to say about it tomorrow."