Published November 27, 2012
“Most important is you can’t change Washington from inside, only from the outside. That’s how some of our biggest accomplishments like health care got done — mobilizing the American people.”
-- President Obama at a Sept. 20 Presidential candidate forum in Miami hosted by Spanish-language broadcaster Univision.
For Americans weary of the perpetual presidential campaign, Election Day seems to have brought little relief.
President Obama will return to the electoral battleground of Montgomery County in suburban Philadelphia on Friday to press his case for a tax increase on top earners. Meanwhile, Team Obama is pushing campaign volunteers to turn their attention to the battle for higher tax rates.
Obama will reportedly hold his campaign-style event at a toymaker in Hatfield, Pa., dovetailing with his argument that if Congress does not accept his plan, Christmas sales will suffer and the economy could tumble.
Going out to say that Republicans are ruining Christmas is the strongest sign yet we’ve seen that Obama isn’t looking for a Kumbaya moment with the GOP. He wants Republicans to start the process with a full concession on tax rates.
The thinking in Obama’s new Christmas campaign is that he can maximize his leverage in the negotiations with congressional Republicans over looming, automatic, across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts by rallying public support for his position and painting conservative Republicans, rather than liberal Democrats, as the cliff jumpers.
Obama has long held that the struggles of his first term have been mostly due to failing to rally public support to his positions, rather than the positions themselves. It’s clear in the battle over the so-called fiscal cliff, the president means to keep his campaign going in order to apply political pressure to his Republican foes.
Those Republican foes, however, are already looking for a way to cut a deal with Obama. There’s little debate on the GOP side that any deal to avert the massive tax hikes and other ticking fiscal time bombs will involve top earners paying more in taxes. The debate on the right is over how to structure such a deal to maximize spending cuts, changes to entitlement programs and simplifying the tax code.
While Republicans are talking about how much they should get in return for their concession to the re-elected president, that same president is going public with his answer: Nada.
Obama’s top White House political adviser David Plouffe, the architect of the president’s smash-mouth re-election campaign, told an audience at his alma mater, the University of Delaware, that Obama wanted to use this moment to reset the fiscal footing of the nation for the next 10 or 20 years and address the convoluted tax code and long-term drivers of the debt, like Medicare and Medicaid.
But, Plouffe also warned that in order to get a big deal done, “this is going to get hairy.”
The translation: Obama plans to push Republicans hard in this negotiation in order to use a short-term crisis to get a long-term deal that’s to his liking.
While lots of Republicans are open to the idea of doing a big deal that addresses the long-term drivers of federal debt and there is broad support for tax reform on the Red Team, there is deep resistance to giving Obama what he wants right now, which is to see tax rates climb for top earners.
Having been forced to extend current tax rates twice in his first term, Obama is looking to show that he’s going to stand his ground in a second term.
Obama’s first public appearance after his re-election was a campaign-style event at the White House featuring middle-class folks who the president said would be the victims if Republicans failed to accept his proposal for higher rates in top brackets.
Friday’s event is intended to show how the economy would be damaged if those middle-class folks had less money to spend on toys and Christmas cheer.
What Republicans had in mind was doing a big bundle of a deal that would address taxes, spending, entitlements, the soon-to-be-breached debt ceiling and other lingering concerns. They came back to town offering concessions on taxes in hopes of getting the ball rolling on doing the big deal.
But Obama is going the other way, looking to manufacture a real mandate for a top-tier tax increase and to force Republicans to eat it before the end of the year. The president is no doubt already imagining the GOP in chaos as moderate members of the Red Team jump for the tax-hike deal as the clock ticks down.
Vicious Republican primary fights and a splintered GOP House majority are the sugarplums dancing in the heads of Obama and Plouffe this Christmas season.
Having blown up the GOP over the year-end tax hikes, Obama no doubt imagines that he will be able to roll up victories on spending, the rest of the tax code and entitlements, especially the one created by his 2010 health law.
At a moment where the Republicans are trying to hand Obama the gift of a victory on taxes, the president is sending a clear message that he’s not starting the discussion until Republicans give him exactly what he wants on the extension of tax rates.
So much for the new spirit of compromise.
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET at http:live.foxnews.com.