Obama Lays Groundwork for a Populist Campaign in State-of-the-Union Speech
President Obama has a choice about what kind of reelection campaign he wants to run.
He could run as a centrist ("the only grown-up in the room") or as a no-holds-barred
populist ("tax the rich"). In his state-of-the-union speech last night, he indicated
fairly clearly that he
to go the latter route. He emphasized fairness and opportunity for everyone, not just the
rich. He said that everyone must play by the same rules (English translation: Mitt Romney
should have the same tax table as you and I do). He talked about investing in infrastructure and
Polls show that a large number of people think that the system is rigged against them. This
feeling was surely bolstered by the release of Mitt Romney's 2010 tax return this week showing
that he paid an effective 13.9% tax rate on an income of $21.7 million.
Obama didn't attack Romney, who undoubtedly obeyed the
law, but attacked the law itself. He brought up the fact that Warren Buffett's secretary, Debbie Bosanek,
pays a higher tax rate than billionaire Buffett himself. To make this point more graphic, he used
Bosanek as a prop, planting her right next to Michelle Obama in the audience. Bosanek
she was so
excited that she couldn't sleep last night. It is unlikely that when she applied for a job as a secretary
in Nebraska she thought it would lead to her being invited to sit next to the first lady at a major political event, let alone
become the key symbol used by a sitting President during an election campaign, but there she is.
And unlike U.S. Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger, who became an international hero by skillfully landing his stricken
plane in the Hudson River with no fatalities, all Bosanek did for her fame was pay her taxes.
Obama's speech was short on details, but they will no doubt come later. One specific item he did mention,
however, was a proposed change to the tax laws to make sure than anyone earning more than $1 million pays at
least a 30% tax rate. He may ask Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to introduce it into the Senate, knowing
full well the Republicans will filibuster it. Then he can campaign on the theme that Republicans don't want
to raise taxes on the rich.
have show over and over that huge majorities want to increase taxes on millionaires. Making this issue a key
part of his reelection campaign is going to put the Republicans in an awkward position, especially if Romney
is the nominee.
The Republicans are already attacking Obama for "class warfare," but at a time of great anxiety for many people
who have lost their jobs and homes or are in fear of losing them, name calling is probably no match for a President
calling for fairness and not having the system favor a small group of rich people at the expense of the middle class.
If Mitt Romney is the eventual GOP nominee, the contrast could not be sharper: a man raised by a single mother on
welfare who made it to the top vs. a man born to great wealth (Romney's father was CEO of American Motors)
and power (Romney's father was later governor of Michigan). If Newt Gingrich is the nominee, this
argument will be useless since Gingrich was born to a 16-year-old girl whose marriage lasted three days.
The speech focused nearly entirely on economics and fairness. But there were also topics that didn't make it
into the speech. For example, although he talked endlessly about clean energy and the jobs it could create, Obama
didn't mention the fact that he had just killed the Keystone XL pipeline and the construction jobs it would have
created. No doubt during the campaign Republicans will hammer him on this. In rebuttal, Democrats will point out that
Obama killed the project in part because the Republican governor of Nebraska, Dave Heineman, was wildly against it
for fear a spill would pollute his state's water supplies for years to come. Obama also didn't talk much about
foreign policy although when this comes up during the campaign he will no doubt point out that he, not President
George W. Bush, was the one who got Osama bin Laden.
Another factor to consider about the speech is the effect it has on Obama's base, many of whom are very
disappointed with him for patiently negotiating with the Republicans on everything, generally giving them
much of what they want in the end, rather than calling their bluff. Just as the Republican primary campaign
is full of red meat for the Republican base, this speech was full of red meat for the Democratic base. Obama knows
his base will vote for him in the end, but he needs to fire them up to get them out there ringing doorbells and
and donating money. This speech was an attempt to get their attention.
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-- The Votemaster
Jan24 Romney Releases 2010 Tax Return
Jan24 Role Reversal in the Debate: Romney Attacks, Gingrich Plays Defense
Jan24 Fred Thompson Endorses Newt Gingrich
Jan22 Gingrich Crushes Romney in South Carolina
Jan20 Perry Drops Out and Endorses Gingrich
Jan20 Gingrich Surging in South Carolina
Jan20 Gingrich's Second Wife Attacks Him
Jan20 Romney Loses His Win in Iowa
Jan20 Romney Reported to Have Millions of Dollars in the Cayman Islands
Jan20 The Final Four Take Off the Gloves in the Last Debate before the South Carolina Primary
Jan17 Hard-Hitting Debate in South Carolina Changes Nothing
Jan16 Huntsman Expected to Drop Out Today and Endorse Romney
Jan16 Why is the Republican Field So Weak?
Jan16 South Carolina Debate Tonight
Jan15 Social Conservatives Agree to Back Santorum
Jan13 Eleventh Commandment Repealed
Jan11 NH: Romney 39%, Paul 23%, Huntsman 17%, Gingrich 9%, Santorum 9%
Jan11 Charlie Cook: Redistricting is Politically Neutral
Jan10 Romney Leads Going into the New Hampshire Primary Today
Jan10 Gingrich Goes Negative in South Carolina
Jan08 Romney Survives Debate Unscathed
Jan08 Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it
Jan05 Bachmann Drops Out
Jan05 Perry Hesitates, but Stays In
Jan05 Movement Conservatives Attempt to Find a Consensus Candidate
Jan04 Iowa: Romney 24.6%, Santorum 24.6%, Paul 21.4%, Gingrich 13.3%
Jan03 All Eyes on Iowa Today
Jan03 The Horse Race as a Horse Race
Jan01 Happy New Presidential Election Year
Jan01 Iowa Caucuses Are This Tuesday
Jan01 Final Selzer Poll: Romney and Paul on top but Santorum Rising
Dec16 No Fireworks in Final GOP Debate
Dec11 Romney Offers Perry a $10,000 Bet During Debate
Dec11 Where is Sarah Palin?
Dec11 The 2012 Contest: Whole Foods Clients vs. Cracker Barrel Shoppers
Dec07 Gingrich Way Ahead in Iowa
Dec07 Obama Gives Fiery Speech Attacking the Republicans
Dec07 Pelosi Backtracks on Releasing Dirt
Dec04 Herman Cain Drops Out
Dec04 Gingrich Pulls Away in Iowa
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