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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 08:33 AM ET, 12/23/2011

The Morning Plum

* What Dems will learn from big payroll tax cut victory: Now that the smoke has cleared from the wreckage, the magnitude of the GOP’s defeat in the payroll tax cut fight is now clear. What will Dems learn from their victory?

I think Eugene Robinson is right to predict that Obama and Dems will conclude that it shows they can win when they unabashedly wield a big populist sledgehammer:

The week’s events offer a lesson for Obama, too. One reason for all the Republican angst was that public opinion has become more sensitive to issues of economic justice. This may be partly due to the Occupy protests. But I’m convinced that Obama’s fiery barnstorming in favor of his American Jobs Act has played a big role. People are hearing his message.
The president has been on the offensive. It’s no coincidence that, for the first time in quite a while, Republicans are backing up.

Dems are hoping the story they told during this battle — they are the fighters for the middle class, while Republicans revealed that their true priorities are protecting the wealthy even if it means more hardship for working families — will establish the narrative for the 2012 campaign. Crucially, they think they have put the battles over the deficit behind them — battles that unfolded on GOP turf — and can now make the fight all about the ideological differences between the two parties over how and whether government should act to create jobs and improve economic conditions for the middle class.

Polls suggest that public opinion may have shifted favorably for Obama and Dems in some respsects, despite continuing high disapproval over the economy. A recent Post poll found that Obama now holds a 15-point advantage over Congressional Republicans on who is more trusted to protect the middle class; he holds a 17 point advantage among independents on taxes. Meanwhile, a recent CNN poll found that Obama’s approval rebound is being fueled by big gains among middle class voters, a crucial swing constituency.

Despite yesterday’s big victory, many of the same political dynamics that will make reelection a very tough slog remain in place. As Steve Benen notes this morning, Dems had to make some fairly big concessions enroute to their victory, and there’s every reason to believe the battle over the year-long payroll tax cut extension will be even tougher.

But it’s encouraging to see that Obama’s team has determined that the best way to win back the middle of the country is to be seen as a fighter for jobs and the middle class — one who will battle Republicans if necessary, rather than extend a hand for compromise. The resounding Obama/Dem victory in the payroll tax cut fight, and the simultaneous shifts in public opinion, will only reinforce this view.

* Boehner’s Speakership style under scrutiny: Paul Kane takes a look at what the payroll tax defeat means about Boehner’s approach to the Speakership, and concludes that Boehner is trying to be a true consensus-builder who is more “liked” than “feared.”

In fairness to Boehner, it’s a good thing that he’s not replicating Tom DeLay’s “hammer” tactics, even if it means he increasingly appears to lose control in the face of Tea Party rebellions, with unclear consequences for his tenure.

* The recriminations begin: After yesterday’s stinging loss, Charles Krauthammer blames Democrats for setting a “trap” that ensnared House Republicans. It’s hard to see how Harry Reid’s compromise with Republican Mitch McConnell — one that Republican John Boehner himself reportedly asked McConnell to negotiate, and reportedly knew about as it developed — constitutes a “trap” set by Dems for Republicans.

Be that as it may, get ready for a bitter round of recriminations and finger-pointing.

* What really happened yesterday: The first three paragraphs of this Post story capture it perfectly. As John Aravosis notes, there isn’t much more to say beyond that.

* White House pushes back on Romney’s “entitlement society” claim: Mitt Romney has taken to falsely claiming that Obama is seeking a society based on government-enforced equality. This Joe Biden op ed represents the White House’s first pushback:

Romney also misleadingly suggests that the president and I are creating an “Entitlement Society,” whereby government provides everything for its people without regard to merit, as opposed to what he calls an “Opportunity Society,” where everything is merit-based and every man is left to fend for himself. The only entitlement we believe in is an America where if you work hard, you can get ahead.

Obama and Dems think there’s been a fundamental shift in the public’s view of the economy, with people now seeing it as rigged against the middle class, meaning hard work no longer guarantees success. The pushback on Romney’s “entitlement society” claim will be that Romney wants to return to the YoYo (you’re on your own) Economics that led to the meltdown.

* Welcome to “post truth” politics: Speaking of the “entitlement society,” Paul Krugman is 100 percent right to say that Mitt Romney’s stream of falsehoods, equivocations, dissembling and distortions simply has no equivalent on the Dem side, even if the news media resolutely continues to pretend otherwise:

If Mr. Romney is in fact the Republican presidential nominee, he will make wildly false claims about Mr. Obama and, occasionally, get some flack for doing so. But news organizations will compensate by treating it as a comparable offense when, say, the president misstates the income share of the top 1 percent by a percentage point or two.
The end result will be no real penalty for running an utterly fraudulent campaign.

Exhibit A: PolitiFact. The problem is that there’s just no way to get many media figures to even listen to this argument, let alone to give it any thought. You see, we mustn’t try to determine whether it’s objectively true that one side’s falsehoods are far more frequent and egregious than the other’s, because this might require taking sides and would thus not be ... objective. The rampant false equivalence is at this point akin to a disease.

* Romney looks other way while allies spew nonstop falsehoods: It appears the dishonesty extends to Romney’s allies, too. Post fact checker Glenn Kessler demolishes all the falsehoods in a pro-Romney Super PAC’s ad attacking Gingrich, and says Romney should call them out:

There is an easy way for him to deal with this issue — publicly demand that his Super PAC stop running such misleading ads...there is nothing to stop him from denouncing such ads as unbecoming to his campaign.

Nothing, except that it might make it harder for him to win the GOP primary.

* Newt cheerfully absorbes huge onslaught of negative ads: The Los Angeles Times takes stock of the massive barrage of negative ads pummeling Gingrich daily in Iowa, including millions being spent by pro-Romney forces, another sign that they want to end this contest very quickly.

Newt’s strategy of remaining positive and playing “nice” is coming under heavy criticism, but soon enough, we’ll find out whether his diagnosis that in this primary the old rules don’t apply is accurate.

* Why the new EPA standards are a big deal: A nice Kevin Drum take on why the new EPA standards on mercury and other toxic emissions is a major step forward for public health and an enduring reason why the oft-critical left should be thankful that Obama is president.

* And here’s why the GOP “hostage” strategy works: As Ilyse Hogue notes, one of the dominant dynamics of the year has been that when Dems cave to Republican “hostage taking,” they only end up making themselves look weak, even if they’re right on principle. One wonders whether yesterday’s victory will begin to break that dynamic.

What else is happening?

By  |  08:33 AM ET, 12/23/2011

 
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