Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the House Republican whip, meant to praise John McCain. But during an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Friday, Blunt offered his compliments in a way that may ultimately prove damaging to McCain.
Barack Obama's campaign was quick to send reporters one snippet from Blunt's comments: "Clearly, yesterday, his position on that discussion yesterday was one that stopped a deal from finalizing." (They also sent out the video of Blunt that appears at the bottom of this post.)
Now, highlighting only that quote wasn't entirely straightforward on the Obama camp's part, as it's clear from the context of Blunt's remarks that he meant them in a positive way. He's one of the House Republicans who oppose the bailout deal that was announced Thursday, and then broke down within hours. A little more of the discussion between Blunt and Mitchell:
MITCHELL: Congressman, the McCain folks are saying that the big success of everything that he's done in the last 24 hours was getting you to the table. That's a lot of pressure.
BLUNT: Well, that -- that is a lot of pressure on me being at the table. But I do think that John McCain was very helpful in what he did. I saw him this morning. We've been talking with his staff.
Clearly, yesterday -- his position on that discussion yesterday was one that stopped a deal from finalizing that no House Republican, in my view, would have been for, which means it wouldn't have probably passed the House.
Now, Democrats are in the majority. They can pass anything they want to without a single Republican vote. But they don't seem to be willing to do that.
Blunt's last point is an important one to consider; he's not wrong. The bailout could probably pass the House without Republican support. In the Senate, the minority party can filibuster, but there's no such rule in the House. The problem is that, well, Democrats aren't stupid -- they need the political cover that comes with bipartisanship because the bailout is unpopular.
An Associated Press poll found 45 percent of respondents opposed to the current bailout plan. By contrast, 35 percent favored the deal, and 25 percent were undecided. A USAToday/Gallup poll revealed that 78 percent of respondents want Congress to pass a bailout deal -- just not this one. FIfty-six percent said the plan Congress passes should be different from the one proposed by the Bush administration, which formed the basis of Thursday's deal. Only 22 percent of respondents said the final bailout package should look like the administration's plan.
Asked whether McCain could in fact benefit politically from trying to stop the deal, Obama spokesman Bill Burton told Salon, "This is what folks are saying today: 'We hate the bailout but we need it.'"