It is no secret that Obama is vulnerable. An overwhelming majority of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. Unemployment is still hovering at 8.2 percent. The number of jobs created in June fell short of economists’ projections. The economy needs to create 150,000 jobs per month to keep up with population growth alone.
President Obama’s announcement today that he favored an extension of the Bush tax cuts for all those Americans earning under $250,000 a year expertly changed the subject of the political debate away from Friday’s anemic jobs report to a subject he was more comfortable with, promoting fairness and tax equity in America.
By advocating an extension of the Bush tax cuts for upwards of 97% of the populace and higher taxes for the rich, the President continued to drive his class based message which has thus far been effective in neutralizing Governor Romney’s attempts to make the performance of the Obama administration the central issue in this election.
For the second time in less than a month President Obama succeeded in changing the subject. With the economy worsening in June, the President’s announcement on immigration framed the political debate in a way that uniquely and centrally benefitted the President, particularly with Hispanic voters in swing states. By now pivoting away from the healthcare decision, which ratified the Affordable Care Act as being constitutional because the mandate represented a constitutionally protected tax, and the poor job numbers, the President was able to once again trump Governor Romney tactically.
While this is a short-term win for the President, it may not provide long-term dividends in November. This strategy misses the point of what the American people need and what swing voters want to hear about. Swing voters want to hear about more than short-term tax cuts and short-term fixes to the immigration laws. Swing voters, and indeed all Americans, want to hear about large scale and comprehensive fiscal reform that will keep us from going over what has been referred to as the “fiscal cliff.” The American people want, and require, solutions to our problems. So far the President and Governor Romney have failed to deliver.
The only difference between the two candidates is that Governor Romney has been far less adept than President Obama at shifting our attention.
The real losers in this scenario are the American people whose concerns about the national debt and deficit, economic growth and unemployment have been largely unaddressed. The real challenge facing both campaigns is to not waste the rest of the campaign debating class based solutions, initiatives and fixes that have nothing to do with our real world problems.
There is another strategy available to Obama that he has yet to consider. It’s a strategy that could catapult him in the polls and in the process help America significantly. It would even revitalize the Democratic Party and offer them the boost they desperately need.
The strategy for Obama should be to stop playing politics. Stop using classed based politics as his go-to strategy. Stop attacking Romney for outsourcing, for foreign bank accounts and for Bain Capital. Just stop it all.
Obama needs to rise above. He needs to tell the electorate that he gets it. He should say, “You know what, I want to talk about our economic problems, our budgetary problems and I want to develop a clear, new initiative.”
He should hold nothing back. Put it all on the table. The tax cuts, tax reform, spending cuts, entitlement reform – all out there for negotiation. Even his hallmark legislation, the Affordable Care Act, should be in the mix.
It’s crucial that he make clear that he is not abandoning his principles, but that he knows that America cannot go even another six months without a clear plan for the future. Years into this crisis, we still have yet to see the vision and to understand how it will work so that we can truly recover. It has gone on long enough.