Winning The PR Battle: But So What?

I see this morning a somewhat polarized debate online between people who think the White House negotiating strategy around the debt ceiling failed, and those who believe it was in fact a kind of covert success aimed specifically at rolling the left. I think the most parsimonious theory is that it’s primarily a political strategy whose point is to paint the president in a good light. Here’s a Greenberg/Quinlan/Rosner poll published over the weekend (PDF):

As longtime readers know, I’m pretty much an economic determinist about election outcomes, and think public perception of Barack Obama’s negotiating strategy during the summer of 2011 are largely irrelevant to his political future. But it’s important to emphasize that approximately zero percent of elected officials and approximately zero percent of professional political operatives agree with this. In practice, politicians and their staff act as if every public relations battle has dramatic electoral consequences. Under the circumstances, I think President Obama is largely driven by a desire to be perceived by the public as the more reasonable party and that he is succeeding in that effort.