CALLING OUT THOSE WHO GOT US INTO THE DITCH…. E.J. Dionne Jr. had a good column today on President Obama’s visit to California this week to help Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) raise some funds for her re-election bid. As Dionne noted, the fact that Boxer even needs the help is a discouraging sign for Democrats.

But Dionne also noted that there’s some growing evidence that the president and other Dems may be able to go on the offensive as the campaign season heats up. He added that he saw the president hint at a campaign theme.

“In this entire year and a half of cleaning up the mess, it’s been tough because the folks very responsible for a large portion of this mess decided to stand on the sidelines,” Obama declared. “It was as if somebody had driven their car into the ditch and then just watched you as you had to yank it out, and asked you: ‘Why didn’t you do it faster — and why do I have that scratch on the fender?’ And you want to say: ‘Why don’t you put your shoulder up against that car and help to push?’ That’s what we need, is some help.”

In one paragraph, Obama did what many of the dispirited in his party have long been urging him to do: He linked the economic mess to past Republican policies — much as Ronald Reagan blamed the economic downturn of the early 1980s on Democrats and liberals — and turned the tables on bipartisanship by asserting that it is Republicans who are blocking concord.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because the president sounded a similar note — at a California fundraiser, no less — last October. “When I’m busy and Nancy’s busy with our mop cleaning up somebody else’s mess, we don’t want somebody sitting back saying, ‘You’re not holding the mop the right way,’” he said at the time. “Why don’t you grab a mop? Why don’t you help clean up?”

It’s the kind of message the president may want to use more often, and in venues other than just party fundraisers.

In the abstract, the Republican message of the last two years is almost hard to believe: they left a series of extraordinary crises for Democrats to address, refused to help address those crises, blocked Democratic efforts to put things right, and now want voters to give them the power to go back to the policies that created the crises in the first place.

If the president’s remarks are indicative of the message we’re likely to hear the rest of the year, Dems have a reasonably good pitch. If voters decide they’re not happy with the way Democrats pulled the car out of the ditch that Republicans drove into, it may not matter, but at least the message is there for voters to consider.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.