PRESIDENT EYES GOP ‘PLEDGE’…. Given what we’ve seen over the last few days, it looks like the “Pledge to America” is off to an awkward start.

On the Sunday shows, for example, Republican leaders backed away from the idea that their policy agenda is actually a policy agenda. At the same time, the GOP base seems largely unimpressed, and Republican candidates haven’t exactly been scrambling to associate themselves with the “Pledge.”

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In the meantime, leading Democrats don’t seem especially afraid of the new agenda. President Obama sat down this morning with Matt Lauer for a discussion focused almost entirely on education policy. But towards the end of the interview, Lauer asked about the midterms and whether the president might change his “tone or your emotion in terms of pushing back” against the GOP.

“I think that if you’ve heard me speak around the country over the last several months, I think that it’s clear I’ve got a very sharp difference with the Republicans on a lot of issues,” Obama replied.

“And when I say ‘Republicans,’ I really should say ‘Republican leadership’ because I think there are lot of wonderful people out there who consider themselves Republicans or independents, who have maybe some criticisms of my administration, but basically recognize we’ve got to solve some big problems, we’ve got to be serious, we’ve got to base our decisions on facts.

“What I’m seeing out of the Republican leadership out of the last several years has been a set of policies that are just irresponsible. And we saw in their ‘Pledge to America’ a similar set of irresponsible policies. They say they want to balance the budget, they propose $4 trillion worth of tax cuts, and $16 billion in spending cuts. And then they say, ‘We’re gonna somehow magically balance the budget.’ That’s not a serious approach.

“So, the question for voters over the next five weeks is, ‘Who is putting forward policies that have a chance to move our country forward — so that our schools have improved, so that we have world-class infrastructure, so that we’re serious about helping small businesses, we’re serious about getting a handle on our spending — and who’s just engaging in rhetoric. And I think that if that debate is taking place over the next five weeks, we’re going to do just fine.”

When the Democratic president seems a little more excited about the Republicans’ agenda than Republicans, it’s probably a big hint about the merit of the “Pledge.”

Steve Benen

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.