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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 09:06 AM ET, 12/22/2011

The Morning Plum

* Letting payroll tax cut expire holds peril for Obama, too: As we get closer to the brink, it’s now overwhelmingly obvious that House Republicans are putting themselves at grave political risk by holding out against the Senate plan to extend the payroll tax cut. But a point that’s gotten lost is that the brinksmanship holds a bit of risk for Obama and Dems, too, albeit not as much as it does for Republicans.

As they chart the endgame, Dems are vowing that they will not blink, and insist they are prepared to allow the tax cut to expire if necessary — after which Dems would hammer House Republicans mercilessly in an effort to force them to come back in January to extend it. But Dems I’ve spoken to are also privately gaming out how such an outcome would impact the economy — and what the potential drag it could have on the recovery would mean for them, not just Republicans, in political terms. Jackie Calmes, in a piece mostly focused on how the payroll tax cut fight has given Obama a political lift, puts it this way:

Though House Republicans were bearing the brunt of criticism for the latest show of Washington dysfunction, Mr. Obama could be hurt if the tax break and jobless aid are not extended and the fragile economy sours, as nonpartisan economic forecasters have warned it will without the continued stimulus measures.

While it looks as if Dems will continue to hold the line, they believe there’s real risk to the economy — and potentially to themselves politically — should the showdown ultimately lead to allowing the tax cut to expire. This scenario obviously holds far greater peril for Republicans, but the possibility of a stalled recovery and the damage it could to Obama and Dems are, I’m told, also a key factor in Dem thinking about how to handle the politics of the next few days.

Dems say they simply don’t know whether Republicans are willing to take the enormous political risk that allowing the tax cut to expire would entail. But for now, they seem prepared to find out. As the First Read crew put it this morning: “Democrats have absolutely no intention of throwing House Republicans a lifeline here.”

* Obama keeps up pressure on House Republicans: The President is set to hold another event today urging the House GOP to support the Senate payroll tax extension compromise, and in another sign that social media has been key to this push, he announces it on Twitter:

Everyone should see what #40dollars means to folks: groceries, daycare, gas, copays. Keep it going. I’ll talk abt this tmrw @ 12:15ET. –bo

A White House official emails that Obama today “will be joined by Americans who would see their taxes go up if the House Republicans fail to act.”

The event — which is meant to firmly ally Obama with the 160 million Americans who may see a tax hike if Republicans continue along their current course — will serve as a reminder of the built-in advantages the President holds in showdowns like this.

* House GOP leaders don’t think they’re losing tax fight: Paul Kane reports that off the record criticism of House Republicans by their Senate counterparts is mounting, even as House GOP leaders are insisting that they will continue along their current course, and aren’t worried that they will lose the advantage they think they have on the issue of taxes.

Which is interesting, since polls suggest that the payroll tax cut fight is helping Obama win back middle class voters and has given him a double digit lead among independents on taxes. John McCain, on CNN this morning, put it this way: “Republicans are losing this fight.”

* Dems draw another line in the sand: Dick Durbin flatly rules out the possibility that Senate Dems will appoint any negotiators for conference talks over the payroll tax cut, as Republicans want.

The declaration would seem to mean that there’s simply no way the tax cut gets extended unless Republicans support the Senate plan — which will further intensify pressure on the House GOP.

* Dems tout killing of Osama Bin Laden: The DNC is out with a remarkable new Web video responding to Mitt Romney’s claim that “any president” would have given the order to kill Bin Laden. It’s a minute long collection of praise for Obama’s “courageous” and “gutsy” decision from Robert Gates, Colin Powell and various news outlets — easily the most ambitious effort yet by Obama’s operation to highlight the killing in a political context.

The vid suggests that Dems will not refrain from aggressively touting the killing to rebut GOP criticism of Obama on national security, particularly when Republicans themselves provide the hook for them to do so, as Romney did here.

Also: As Taegan Goddard points out, in 2008 Romney criticized Obama for vowing to strike Al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan.

* Romney changes position on Iraq invasion: Great catch by Byron York: Romney has now shifted his position on the Iraq. He first claimed he didn’t know if he would have ordered the invasion if we had known there were no weapons of mass destruction. But now he’s saying that “of course” we wouldn’t have gone in with that knowledge.

That would be news to Republicans who say the Iraq invasion was a sterling success despite the fact that we found no WMDs in the country.

* Obama reelect reality check of the day: As good a month as Obama has had, Steve Kornacki is right to point out that the economy is still looming as a huge hurdle in the path to releection, and that Dems shouldn’t take too much solace from the payroll tax cut fight:

The correlation between voters’ economic confidence and their inclination to reelect an incumbent president is well-established ...Obama’s recent successes — along with the almost comical disarray that has defined the GOP during the payroll tax standoff — may come to look like a mirage just a few months from now.

It’s another reason why there’s a bit of risk for Obama and Dems in letting the payroll tax cut expire.

* Why won’t Obama throw Boehner a lifeline? Like Steve Benen, I find it puzzling that reporters are asking the White House whether there’s anything Obama can do to help Boehner excape the political box he finds himself in.

* Mitt Romney’s Bain years and “creative destruction”: Jia Lynn Yang has a must read on how Romney’s brand of capitalism is based on the idea of “creative destruction,” i.e., the idea that restructuring companies and laying off masses of workers are necessary to building a more efficient economy. That’s the argument Romney will make. But the key question is whether the central goal of making huge profits off these restructurings and mass layoffs will lead voters to see Romney’s Bain years as a negative.

* And Rick Perry, the “proven conservative”: A deep pocketed independent group supporting Rick Perry is up with new ad in Iowa and South Carolina bludgeoning Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich that’s really worth a watch.

It highlights all the liberal apostasies of the two frontrunners’ past — accurately — a reminder that the GOP really might end up nominating someone who has held multiple positions that are supposed to represent pure, unadulterated heresy for Tea Party conservatives.

What else is happening?

By  |  09:06 AM ET, 12/22/2011

 
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