Obama has just revealed the policies and tactics which will take Democrats down the home stretch to November - win or lose.
Bush Tax Cuts. Obama announced that he will "will rule out any compromise that would extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy beyond this year." Democrats have thus been thrust into a class-warfare fight with Republicans, rather than the bipartisan, compromise victory they might have desired following a wholesale extension of the tax cuts for all Americans.
Obama is gambling that Americans will view a tax hike on the wealthy as somehow benefiting the middle-class, rather than harming the economy. The latter fear, however, has been espoused even by Obama's former budget director. And Rasmussen polls finds that Americans, by a margin of over 3:1, prefer tax cuts to increased spending to repair the economy. Which brings us to...
Stimulus, Part II (or II, or...). Obama will soon announce yet another stimulus plan, this one weighing in at $180 billion. The package will entail infrastructure projects and business tax cuts - policies amenable to GOP sensibilities. This may be the first instance of relatively bipartisan legislation supported by President Obama. Naturally, if he hopes to claim an economic victory before November, the substance will have to be attractive to Republicans. But, Obama would be just as happy with GOP resistance, as his major theme between now and then will likely be to brand the GOP as "the party of 'no'" and hope Americans will prefer something (read: anything) rather than nothing.
However, by a margin of 3:1, Americans prefer fewer government services and lower taxes to more services and higher taxes. By a margin of nearly 2:1, in fact, Americans oppose a second stimulus. Further, Obama is proposing to offset the cost of his stimulus package by increasing corporate tax rates - which will certainly not prove soothing to a flailing economy - and his resistance to a payroll tax cut to spur hiring portrays Obama as more fixated upon transforming the U.S. economy in his image than fighting unemployment.
The battle lines have thus been drawn, and Republicans should be smiling at their fortunes.