As a few rather clever journalists (Jonathan Chait and Greg Sargent come immediately to mind) have long foretold, the President’s reelection campaign has begun “Phase II” of its anti-Romney strategy.
Phase I was to highlight Romney’s politically problematic career at Bain, as well as his opaque finances and tax filings. The goal: Lodge in undecided voters’ minds a portrayal of Romney as hyper-wealthy, detached, and consummately self-interested. Above all else, Chicago hoped low-information voters would see in Romney an unreflective beneficiary of a system whose inequities and hypocrisies would only worsen under his stewardship.
To sum it up by repurposing one of Reagan’s most celebrated lines, Romney’s not the solution — he’s the problem.
But Phase I lacks most of its electoral potency unless it’s linked together with Phase II: Depicting the “Path to Prosperity” (a.k.a. Paul Ryan’s budget) as the public policy manifestation of The Romney Problem, turning the Ryan budget into the Romney-Ryan budget. Quite reasonably, Obama and other Democrats will argue that a vote for Republicans is a vote for making the “Path to Prosperity” a reality. Yet as it’s always been, this de facto shadow budget remains extremely unpopular. Considering that much of the plan’s real cuts remain TBD, it’s only likely to grow more so with further public scrutiny. (Romney would no doubt prefer we discuss it in quiet rooms.)
In fact, the Obama campaign has found that the public hates Ryan’s plan so much they don’t believe it’s real. That’s why Democrats have spent so much time attempting to define Romney in voters eyes as someone who actually would implement this almost comically plutocratic agenda.
So here’s what the President will say today in the do-or-die state of Ohio, using the extremely felicitously timed new Tax Policy Center report on Ryan’s budget as pretext to hammer Romney as an unreserved class warrior:
President Obama on Wednesday plans to attack Mitt Romney’s tax plan as benefiting wealthiest Americans at the expense of middle class families.
The president will make his charges at a campaign event in Ohio, the latest push from the president’s re-election campaign to depict the Republican challenger’s economic philosophy as exploitative.
According to excerpts released from the campaign, Obama plans to cite a new report from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center that concludes the a tax plan similar to the one proposed by Romney “would provide large tax cuts to high-income households, and increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower-income taxpayers.”
“The centerpiece of my opponent’s entire economic plan is a new, $5 trillion tax cut,” the president plans to say. “A lot of this tax cut would go to the wealthiest 1 percent of all households. Folks making more than $3 million a year — the top one-tenth of one percent — would get a tax cut worth almost a quarter of a million dollars… But it gets worse. Under my opponent’s plan, guess who gets the bill for these $250,000 tax cuts? You do.” […]
“[The Tax Policy Center] found that if Governor Romney wants to keep his word and pay for his plan, he’d have to cut tax breaks that middle-class families depend on to pay for your home, or your health care, or send your kids to college,” Obama said. “That means the average middle-class family with children would be hit with a tax increase of more than $2,000.
“But here’s the thing — he’s not asking you to contribute more to pay down the deficit, or to invest in our kids’ education,” he continued. “He’s asking you to pay more so that people like him can get a tax cut.”
Tangent: I’d note that Obama isn’t merely arguing that Romney’s plan serves wealthy and divergent interests, and allowing the voters to make their own inferences about how these interests also happen to be Romney’s own. Rather, Obama is explicitly arguing that Romney’s looking to in effect take money out of the 99 percent’s pockets in order to further stuff his. By this point in the election, we’re all quite used to hearing Obama use this kind of take-no-prisoners rhetoric — but I’m still continually amazed that this is the same guy we saw in 2008.
Anyway, after weeks and weeks of “Are the Bain Attacks Working?” stories, it’s only now, with the introduction of the Romney-Ryan budget, that we can begin to search for evidence. If voters believe the “Path to Prosperity” is actually real, and that a President Romney would actually sign it, then this election becomes a choice between dueling plans for the future rather than a simple up-or-down vote on Obama’s performance thus far. In that scenario, Obama almost certainly wins.