President Obama called out House Minority Leader John Boehner by name no less than eight times during his speech in Cleveland this afternoon.
That’s not how Obama usually operates. During last Monday’s Labor Day address, Obama only went so far as to lash out at nameless Republicans in Congress — a pattern that has frustrated his friendly critics for years. In the 2008 campaign, then-candidate Obama was always reluctant to criticize his opponents by name. This was true during both the Democratic primary, and the general election against Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
Things only got worse after he assumed office, where, perhaps in the name of bipartisanship, he seldom identified Republicans — either individual members, or the party writ large — as the source of the obstruction that’s hamstrung his presidency.
With Democrats poised to suffer big losses in November, that’s all changing. The Democrats’ plan to limit losses requires them to distinguish themselves from the Republicans, who remains unpopular. Hence Obama’s the change.
Complicating matters for Democrats is that, well, few Americans know who “Mr. Boehner” is. That might not be the case if Obama had given speeches like this starting a year ago. But there are still several weeks to go until election day.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.