Obama: Eat Dessert First

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Obama Seeks to Stimulate First, Pay Later

“$400 billion.”

-- Estimated price tag of President Obama’s stimulus package according to a Democratic official talking to FOX News colleague Ed Henry

President Obama likes to make things complicated. Instead of launching a jobs plan last month, he opted to wait until after his vacation. Rather than doing so in a published plan backed up by a short speech, he will give a long talk to a joint session of Congress.

And now we learn that that long-promised speech will not include his plan for paying for the stimulus projects he will propose. While his advisers say that the stimulus package of about $400 billion will be “paid for,” the president will address the paying for part in another speech at a later date.

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    At a moment when the nation is going through a crisis of confidence, this seems to Power Play to be way too much. To regain his footing Obama needs to be clear and concise, not so nuanced and complex that he needs two speeches to lay out the basics of his plan.

    This strategy stems not just from the president’s preference for complexity, but also from a strategy on the economy.

    Obama is determined to enact a tax increase for upper income earners, a dead letter due to bipartisan opposition to tax hikes in Congress. But because of the creation of a 12-member super committee charged with reducing increases to deficits over the next decade by $1.5 trillion, Obama has an avenue to put through a tax increase of sorts on top earners.

    Obama’s plan is to call on the super committee to finance his plan for more spending and small-scale tax incentives by ending tax incentives for higher income individuals and corporations. Obama will say don’t reduce future projected deficits by $1.5 trillion, make it $2.

    This way Obama can claim revenue neutrality for his third stimulus package but push off payments into the misty math of decade-long budget projections. This is not only a relatively painless way to pay for stimulus now, but also a way to make sure that Republicans don’t hijack the super committee and turn it into a vehicle for their preferred stimulation: tax reform.

    If Obama moves the finish line for the super committee, he can prevent the GOP from pushing their plan that would close loopholes in the tax code and use the money to finance lower rates for individuals and businesses.

    Republicans Give Obama the Silent Treatment

    “Majority Leader Cantor and I sent a letter to the president on Tuesday. The purpose was to give the president a roadmap of where we could find common ground on the American peoples’ top priority: jobs. We hope he might include things we agree on in the speech tonight.”

    -- Prepared remarks from House Speaker John Boehner to be delivered at a House Republican Conference meeting today

    Republicans seem to be of two minds on how to deal with President Obama’s pre-prime time speech to most of a joint session of Congress tonight: to denounce or to ignore.

    Congressional Republicans are opting to offer no rebuttal to the president’s speech and many GOPers are opting to stay away from the speech and, like Sen. David Vitter, R-La., go back to their home states.

    But at the same time, some Republicans are concerned about leaving the president unanswered.

    Conservative group American Crossroads is rolling out a blistering ad campaign that documents job losses under Obama. Tagline: “With nearly 14 million Americans out of work, for Barack Obama, the best jobs policy might be to start with repealing his own policies.”

    The Republican National Committee has already been on the air with a tough radio ad and is today out with a bracketing blitz by Chairman Reince Priebus.

    Speaker John Boehner will mark his own silent protest with his guest list for the speech. More than a dozen business owners, each with a media-friendly story about suffering under regulation, taxation and uncertainty, will be his guests in the speaker’s box. That includes the boss of Gibson Guitar, the firm raided for allegedly using improperly sourced hardwoods.

    Republicans on the whole are betting that Obama will not be hitting any home runs tonight and that he won’t offer any policy provisions that change the debate in Washington. Watching Obama for years now suggests that they are probably right, but it does increase the opportunity for Obama if he were to decide to take a chance with a big step to the center or a bold, clear speech.

    Heavyweights Perry and Romney Test Each Other in Opening Round

    RICK PERRY: Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt.

    MITT ROMNEY: Well, as a matter of fact, George Bush and his predecessor created jobs at a faster rate than you did, governor.”

    -- Exchange at the NBC/Politico debate

    Republicans who envied Democrats their high-drama 2008 Obama-Clinton slugfest now have a prizefight of their own.

    In the opening round of the GOP heavyweight match, neither Rick Perry nor Mitt Romney delivered any knockout blows. As they probed each other’s weak spots and practiced their own defenses, viewers saw the shape of the contest to come.

    Debate hosts NBC and Politico certainly did their best to facilitate Romney’s effort to knock down frontrunner Perry, devoting an entire round of questioning to controversial statement’s in Perry’s book and even asking Perry if he believed that Texas was executing innocent death-row inmates but didn’t mention any cause for concern.

    What was Brian Williams expecting? That Perry would say “Maybe? Who knows? We just kill ‘em.” Instead of trapping Perry with a tough question, Williams set up the governor for his grand-slam answer of the night.

    But Perry, who likened the event to a piñata party, didn’t break. He seemed to be measuring his words more carefully than usual but also seemed to be enjoying mixing it up, attacking and ducking in a good-natured way.

    Romney was also smooth on the attack and skilled at the dodge. His best moment of the night came midway through when he switched from attack mode to defend Perry on a round the hosts intended to be devoted to bashing the Texas governor for ordering schoolgirls in Texas to be vaccinated against a venereal disease.

    In this opening round of the fight, Romney built some goodwill for himself and gave himself his own out when he said “we've each taken a mulligan or two.”

    What Republicans were left feeling was that they actually have two pretty strong frontrunners. It was easy for them to imagine either Perry or Romney on the debate stage against Obama: they both seemed presidential and both made stout-hearted attacks on the incumbent.

    Encouraged that they have not one but two men for the job, Republicans may be more willing to let the fight play out. That’s good for Romney because it plays into his long-fight strategy. But it’s also good for Perry because he exceeded the low expectations of his detractors in the GOP establishment.

    Michele Bachmann seemed to reach the vanishing point Wednesday night. She made her points, but didn’t have the crackle of either of her first two debate performances.

    The reason is that she isn’t obliging the press or the Romney campaign by doing what they are hoping she would do: relentlessly attack Perry. Bachmann fulfilled their wishes with Tim Pawlenty, swiping at him before the FOX News/Washington Examiner debate last month, saying he sounded like Barack Obama, and then showing up to eviscerate Pawlenty in person.

    But if Bachmann will not fulfill the Romney wish to “rip [Perry’s] eyes out,” she will continue to lose the interest of the NBC/Politico set. The only way to stay in the conversation for Bachmann is to be an attack dog, but attack dogs don’t win nominations.

    The MSNBC analysts who were alternately sneering at and vilifying the participants in the debate their sister network had just hosted would have given Bachmann a lot more play if she would have ripped out any of the Texan’s organs. Winning notice from Al Sharpton and Chris Matthews would help her celebrity, but not her electability.

    As the Gipper might have said, it’s a time for choosing for Congresswoman Bachmann.

    But just as Bachmann had fulfilled the role of eyeball ripper for her former home-state governor in the last debate, Rep. Ron Paul stepped forward to try to destroy his fellow Texan, Perry.

    Paul bashed Perry for having been a Democrat, for the vaccine order, for seeking rural carve-outs from Hillarycare as Texas agriculture commissioner, for spending, etc.

    The ferocity of Paul’s attacks raised higher the question of whether the lowercase libertarian primary candidate will play uppercase Libertarian spoiler in next year’s general. If Perry, who is more conservative than Romney, is the object of such disdain from Paul, will he be able to support the party’s eventual nominee under either outcome? A refusal to endorse could be followed by a third-party bid and serious problems for the GOP.

    It should be a matter of concern for Perry that both of the second-tier candidates are from his side of the Republican street. Romney needs time to build his war chest and to consolidate his establishment support. The longer the Republican right stays divided the better chance he has of pushing the race into the kind of long struggle Romney believes he can win.

    But the composition of the second tier should also be a matter of concern for Romney. The rest of the field, except for Jon Huntsman, looks a lot more like Perry than Romney. As the field contracts, Perry will gain far more dislocated supporters than Romney. Romney, meanwhile, has to draw his support mostly from the shrinking pool of undecided voters. As the better-known contender – the de facto incumbent – Romney will have work harder to win over undecided Republicans.

    In last week’s FOX News poll, Romney and Perry supporters accounted for 51 percent of the sample. Seven other candidates divvied up 31 percent of the support. Throw in 2 percent among three other candidates, and you are at 16 percent undecided.

    Speaking of Huntsman, the bronchitis-stricken former Utah governor and Obama China ambassador had his best showing so far. He was endearingly desperate as he tried to turn the discussion back to jobs and the economy and up until the part where he said that believing in global warming and evolution were prerequisites for winning the presidency, Huntsman had abandoned the condescending tone that has left him wandering in John Weaver’s political wilderness of mirrors.

    The others did well too. Newt Gingrich was full of indignation and ideas in the fashion of the party’s irascible old uncle. Herman Cain and Rick Santorum both sounded smart and charming. Those Republican voters who stayed around for the horror-show response from the debate’s hosts likely saw little to merit the reaction.

    And Now, A Word From Charles

    “If all of the information that we have until now is actually false and deliberately so, and he gets up there and proposes a radical tax reform like the '86 tax reform that Reagan did with Tip O'Neill, that will be a great moment. I am not sure he's got it in him.

    He is talking about the same old stuff. This is after he's publicly ridiculed shovel-ready jobs. He is going to propose another sprinkling of money, endless amounts of billions on the shovel-ready jobs. I don't know how you do it with a straight face, but I bet he has a straight face."

    -- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report w/Bret Baier

    ***Today on Power Play w/Chris Stirewalt: The president is upping the ante ahead of his jobs speech. Will it pay off? Republicans are betting against it and already refuting the administration’s jobs creation record. Charles Hurt of the Washington Times breaks it all down with Chris. Don’t miss a minute at 11:30am ET at live.foxnews.com***