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Posted at 09:07 AM ET, 10/05/2011

The Morning Plum

* Obama framing 2012 election as a contest of values: With Obama’s push to sell the American Jobs Act intensifying yesterday — even as Democrats in Congress are now moving to change the bill — it’s becoming clearer that his aggressive new populism is part of a larger strategy: One that’s designed to frame the 2012 elections as a contest of values and moral visions.

As I noted the other day, there’s a connection between Obama’s call for tax hikes on the rich and his criticism of the crude conduct of some audience members (the “let him die” moment, the booing of the gay soldier) at GOP debates. Both are strands of argument in a larger case Obama is making about the broader, values-based choice voters will face next year. Obama continually rebuts the charge that his push for tax hikes on the rich is about class envy and division, instead arguing that “we’re all in this together,” an effort to frame the case for tax fairness as a referendum on national unity and the social contract.

This morning brings fresh signs that Obama’s jobs bill won’t pass as is, in particular over his push for tax fairness. But this is now about more than just the jobs bill and taxes, which is why Obama will continue this push. By linking his taxes-and-jobs argument to the crude outbursts at GOP debates, Obama is trying to build a larger contrast between the charitable, inclusive vision he’s fighting for and the fundamentally mean-spirited, exclusionary one he’s implicitly accusing the GOP of harboring.

Today David Nakamura and Paul Kane weigh in with a good piece fleshing this idea out in detail. They tally up the different ways Obama is making the “values” argument, in the context of his jobs push and other areas, and add this key nugget:

Senior administration officials said the president will continue his jobs tour through year’s end in a calculated effort to force Republicans to negotiate or be painted as a party unwilling to address the economic crisis.

Obviously, the Obama team hopes that the larger case about values will broaden the election beyond being a referendum on the economy, which remains extremely dangerous turf for him, by rendering the GOP candidate an unacceptable choice. And the economy and unemployment very well may trump all in the end. But this is the playbook Obama and his team have written, and they’re sticking with it at least through the end of the year.

* Oppposition to Obama hardening: The new Post poll helps explain the need for the new approach: It finds that “strong” opposition to Obama is rising, with four in 10 Americans now strongly disapproving of his performance, including among independents. Also, as Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake note, the new strategy is partly about energizing the base, because:

43 percent of self-identified Democrats said they “strongly” approve of the job Obama is doing, while 74 percent of Republicans strongly disapprove. That’s a 31-point disparity for you non-math majors out there.

* Dems still divided over jobs plan: Harry Reid is putting together a new strategy for paying for the jobs plan in order to win over skittish Dems who are still reluctant to embrace it as is, prompting this key observation from Alexander Bolton:

Republicans are more united against Obama’s plan than Democrats are for it.

Ah, Democrats.

* Congress approval at record low: The new Post poll finds that approval of Congress has plummeted to 14 percent.

Oddly enough, Congress’s obsession with cutting the deficit at the expense of real action on jobs isn’t winning over an electorate that says real action on jobs is far more important than cutting the deficit. Go figure!

* Obama’s new jobs push winning back labor: Relatedly, something to keep an eye on: Whether the President’s aggressive may persuade disappointed labor leaders to recommit to Obama and Dems for 2012. AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka now seems to be fully engaged on behalf of the President.

* Elizabeth Warren quote of the day: At last night’s Massachusetts Dem debate, Warren drew applause with this:

“The people on Wall Street broke this country, and they did it one lousy mortgage at a time.”

Again, what you’re seeing here is an unapologetic, plain-spoken populism that could make it very difficult for Republicans to paint her as another pointy-headed coastal elitist, as they are trying to do.

* Special bonus Elizabeth Warren quote of the day: Just to drive the above point home:

“Forbes magazine named Scott Brown Wall Street’s favorite senator. I was thinking that’s probably not an award I’m going to get.”

* Occupy Wall Street spreading: A quick and useful guide to the Occupy Wall Street protests planned in other cities — and the slew of unions that are expected to join the movement today in New York. It’s hard to escape the sense that this is crossing over into a new phase of durability and intensity.

* Occupy Wall Street, explained: Harold Meyerson goes big:

Once the servant of industry, banking became our dominant industry. It has ceased to serve us. We serve it ... Not all of the problems with the current American model of capitalism originate with banking. But Wall Street’s growth has long come at the expense of productive enterprise, diverting dollars and talent from the business of making goods. Merely occupying Wall Street doesn’t go remotely far enough. We need to diminish finance with regulations that would make our economy both more secure and more productive. Here’s hoping the disparate groups of protesters come together, grow and stay in the streets. It will take a massive, vibrant protest movement to bring America’s subservience to Wall Street to its overdue end.

* A sobering take on Occupy Wall Street: Mark Schmitt on the movement’s limitations and challenges.

* And Eric Cantor for Veep! Chris Frates on a new super PAC Cantor is setting up that could serve as a vehicle to run for Vice President if the opening presents itself.

What else is happening?

By  |  09:07 AM ET, 10/05/2011

 
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