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Posted at 09:13 AM ET, 10/06/2011

The Morning Plum

* Dems hope to redraw battle lines and shift the national conversation: Let’s get started with Steven Dennis’s good curtain raiser on the battle that’s set to erupt in Congress over the new Dem push to fund the American Jobs Act with a surtax on millionaires.

Though it probably won’t secure enough votes to overcome a GOP filibuster, Dems are hoping that an epic floor fight over the surtax will cast Republicans as defenders of the rich and opponents of any and all action on job creation policies that have very broad public support.

More broadly, it’s hard not to discern a clear shift in strategy on not just Obama’s part, but also among Dem party leaders — one designed to, in effect, completely redraw the battle lines that have largely defined our politics in recent months. While the jobs bill in its original form seems doomed, Dems seem to be mounting a full-throttle effort — one involving the White House, Senate leaders, and the DNC — to draw a sharp populist contrast with Republicans on every available front, whether it’s over jobs, tax fairness, or Wall Street reform.

All this is unfolding as a host of various factors — Occupy Wall Street, Obama’s jobs tour, Elizabeth Warren’s Senate run, Warren Buffett’s appeals to his class that they sacrifice a bit more — are pushing the disputes over economic fairness, progressive taxation and corporate influence to the forefront of the national conversation. After two years battling on GOP austerity/deficit/cut-cut-cut territory, Dems finally seem to be making a serious, across-the-board effort to shift the storyline on to their own turf.

And not a moment too soon, what with yet another poll out today showing awful approval numbers for Obama. He is holding a presser today at 11 a.m. that will continue to fuel these arguments.

* A shift in the narrative? Relatedly, E.J. Dionne discerns something similar afoot — a change from “the prevailing narrative” about “a president on the defensive, big government under attack, the deficit as the dominant issue and the Tea Party as the political system’s prime mover”:

Republicans in Congress find themselves defending a series of unpopular positions. Voters don’t like tax increases in general, but they do think the wealthy should bear a bigger share of the tax burden. Regulation may be an easy target, but Americans are in no mood to let Wall Street off the regulatory hook. And government may be scorned in the abstract, but the specifics of what Obama wants government to do through his jobs bill have wide appeal.
Obama is a long way from being able to sing “Happy Days Are Here Again.” But for conservatives, the days of wine and roses are over.

* Dems winning the tax argument? Dem messaging chief Chuck Schumer, the primary driver of the millionaire’s surtax, explains the shift, claiming Republicans are losing the larger dispute over taxes:

“If we’re able to draw a very clear line — people above a million dollars should pay their fair share — it’s much easier to win that argument. And I think we’re winning it. For the first time since Ronald Reagan, we’re beginning to turn the tax debate around.”

* Will skittish Dems get behind millionaire’s tax? The outstanding question is still whether Harry Reid can muster Dem unity behind the new millionaire’s surtax. The Times weighs in with a scorching editorial blasting the handful of Dems who are balking, demanding that they find the “political courage to stand up for aggressive government action to revive the economy, or to admit that both higher taxes on the wealthy and an end to corporate tax breaks are necessary to pay for it and to start wrestling down the deficit.”

My question: How much “political courage” should this even require?

* Keep an eye on Richard Cordray: Another front for the new Dem populism: The Senate banking committee is expected to vote on party lines to advance Obama’s choice for consumer protection cop, upping the stakes in what is expected to be an intense partisan battle over banking issues at a time when Obama is staking out a more confrontational posture towards major corporations.

* Dems launch campaign to pressure Republicans on consumer protection: Dems are also planning to ratchet up the fight over Wall Street reform. A Dem official says that state parties around the country will step up their support today for Cordray, with letters, press conferences and social media.

And the DNC is out with a new Web video that tells the story of the financial crisis and blasts Republicans for siding with Wall Street and against consumers in the drive to repeal Wall Street reform.

With events like Occupy Wall Street and the Elizabeth Warren campaign for Senate campaign putting banking issues front and center, it seems Dems want to pick a major fight over GOP opposition to Obama’s new consumer protection bureau.

* More awful polling for Obama: The new push is unfolding in a bad political environment for Obama: Quinnipiac finds approval of Obama is at an all time low of 41-55, and that voters say 49-39 that Mitt Romney would do better on the economy, an ominous number for the President.

* But can Romney really win the GOP primary? Romney’s team will not be too pleased by Reagan biographer Craig Shirley’s very interesting suggestion to Ben Smith that the “populist-conservative” wing of the GOP is simply too large for someone of Romney’s cultural background and instincts to have any chance at the nomination.

Also note Shirley’s prediction that if Perry can’t lock down this vote, someone else will emerge to make a real play for it.

* Can the jobs fight save Obama’s presidency? Steve Kornacki on how Obama’s new jobs push is all about casting Republicans as the opponents of progress on the economy — and swaying just enough voters on the margins to salvage his reelection chances.

* Republicans vow to block Chinese currency bill: Here’s yet another front where the new battle lines are emerging: With a test vote set for today in the Senate on the Chinese currency ma­nipu­la­tion bill, Repblican leaders are redoubling their efforts to block it, even though it has broad bipartisan support and would by some estimates create over one million new jobs.

* And Bill Daley on Occupy Wall Street: Daley, who was hired in part to improve White House relations with the business community, offers Dave Weigel a surprisingly polite take on the protests, suggesting it may be “helpful for people to understand in the political system that there are a lot of people out there concerned about the economy.”

Indeed!

What else is happening?

By  |  09:13 AM ET, 10/06/2011

 
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