President Obama is tacking to the populist left heading into 2012 and his campaign is betting that independents and swing voters are ready to follow him. In a new strategy memo by press secretary Ben LaBolt, Obama’s re-election team ripped into the GOP field as too conservative to win over the middle on issues ranging from taxes to immigration.
“From economics to immigration, Governor Perry, Governor Romney and the Republican field have embraced policies that the American people oppose,” LaBolt wrote. “The campaign to win the Republican nomination has become a campaign to win the hearts and minds of the Tea Party.”
The memo cites polling showing Americans in favor of raising taxes on the wealthy and against overhauling Social Security, noting that the Republican field is universally on the side of the rich and Rick Perry in particular is extremely vulnerable on entitlements.
“They would return to policies that have been tried before and done nothing to improve economic security for the middle class, rewarding special interests who can afford to pay for lobbyists instead of looking out for working families,” Labolt wrote.
A few things leap out about the language in the memo. One is that Democrats are really hoping the Tea Party’s collapse in the polls will drag down the Republican field with them. And there’s a reason Mitt Romney has carefully avoided the Tea Party label even as he desperately needs conservative voters to win his nomination. Two, Obama’s jobs act isn’t just a brief lurch to the left — they’re really counting on a “people vs. the powerful” message in the Elizabeth Warren vein to carry them into election season.
Finally, there is a strong emphasis on Republican policies that Democrats decry as backwards-looking or reactionary. Without ever using George Bush’s name in the memo, the Obama campaign repeatedly invokes the specter of returning to his policies in making their case to voters. Expect this to be a major theme moving forward, especially on taxes on financial reform.
The full memo, for your perusal, is below:
TO: Interested Parties
FR: Ben LaBolt, Press Secretary
Republican Candidates Support Policies that the American People Oppose
From economics to immigration, Governor Perry, Governor Romney and the Republican field have embraced policies that the American people oppose. The campaign to win the Republican nomination has become a campaign to win the hearts and minds of the Tea Party. They would return to policies that have been tried before and done nothing to improve economic security for the middle class, rewarding special interests who can afford to pay for lobbyists instead of looking out for working families.
While the President is fighting to create jobs and put money in the pockets of middle class Americans, the Republican candidates have proposed extending tax breaks for large corporations and tax cuts for the wealthiest while allowing special interests to write their own rules.
The Republican candidates universally want to repeal the protections that the President put in place to prevent another financial crisis and instead allow banks to write their own rules, but an overwhelming majority of Americans - Republicans, Democrats, and Independents — favor strong oversight of Wall Street and an
independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau [Lake Research 7/11].
Governor Perry called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” and continues to question its constitutionality and Governor Romney supports turning Social Security funds over to Wall Street. Yet even a majority of Republicans oppose a fundamental overhaul of Social Security [Gallup 9/15/11].
According to recent surveys, a strong majority of Americans favor asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share in order to create jobs and get our fiscal house in order. Seventy three percent support ensuring that people who make over a million dollars a year pay the same percentage of taxes on their total income as those who make less, and in a recent Gallup poll asking the wealthiest Americans to pay more was the single most popular proposal to reduce the deficit [PPP 9/22/11; Gallup 8/7/11]. Seventy three percent of Americans support repealing tax breaks for oil and gas companies [CNN Poll 7/21/11]. Yet none of the Republican candidates would ask the wealthiest to pay an additional dime and their economic plans maintain tax breaks for large corporations.
The Republican candidates have embraced Republican budget plans - from the Ryan budget to the so-called Cut Cap and Balance plan - that would end Medicare as we know it, erode Social Security, and eliminate investments in education and research and development. Fifty seven percent of Americans oppose replacing Medicare with a system in which government vouchers would be used to help pay for health insurance [Bloomberg Poll 9/12/11]. And recent surveys have all reflected support for the investments the President has proposed we make to create jobs and spur the economy - from putting first responders and teachers back to work to rebuilding our roads and bridges - rather than a retreat from them.
Instead of laying out a plan to promote America’s competitiveness, the Republican candidates have focused on what they want to dismantle. While the EPA has become the Republican candidates’ favorite punching bag, 71% of Americans believe we should continue to fund the EPA to enforce greenhouse gas emission standards and other environmental regulations [CNN Poll 4/10/11]. A majority of Democrats, a majority of Republicans, and a majority of Independents believe that the Department of Education should remain [CNN Poll 9/11/11]. But Governor Perry called “cutting back on the Department of Education” a “good idea,” and Representative Bachmann said we should “turn off [its] lights and lock the door.”
While Americans oppose repeal by a margin of 52-37, the Republican candidates would repeal the Affordable Care Act, allowing insurance companies once again to refuse to cover preexisting conditions [Kaiser 9/12/11].
Americans don’t want to return to policies that haven’t worked in the past, and they don’t want to start doing away with sensible environmental safeguards and investments in education. They want a forward looking plan to take on our economic challenges, to create jobs and to ensure that America wins the future in a competitive global economy.
The Republican field has become increasingly out of step on immigration. While 64% of Americans believe the U.S. should allow undocumented immigrants to become citizens under certain conditions, the leading Republican candidates oppose a path to citizenship for immigrants [Gallup 6/12/11]. And a majority of Americans have consistently supported the DREAM Act which the Republican candidates universally oppose at the federal level.
Fighting for a fairer economy that rewards hard work and responsibility has been at the center of this administration’s mission. Upon taking office, the President took immediate steps to address our historic economic challenges. He stood up to the banks and passed sweeping credit cards reforms ensuring that they couldn’t gouge consumers through deceptive lending practices, he ignored the pundits and extended a loan to the auto companies that saved 1.4 million American jobs, and instead of carving out tax breaks for large corporations, he cut taxes for small businesses 17 times in order to fuel the true engine of job creation.
America’s future will be defined by the success of our middle class, but the Republican candidates are positioning themselves as champions for large corporations and special interests whose plans would leave working families in the lurch.
This is one of a series of periodic memos about the state of the campaign.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.