Just as Mitt Romney was getting ready to pounce on President Obama’s decision to gut welfare reform, the president gave his “you didn’t build that” speech. Romney took advantage of the opening and thereafter went on his foreign trip. This week, as aides previously told Right Turn, Romney gets back to that attack, but this time trying to adhere to his middle-class theme. The campaign is out with a new ad:
Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul in a written statement calls Obama’s move “an insult not only to those on welfare, but also to the millions of taxpayers struggling in today’s economy, working more for less.” She stresses, “Middle-class Americans are working harder and harder to make ends meet. Under President Obama, they have fewer jobs and less take-home pay. And now, President Obama wants to take their hard-earned tax dollars and give it to welfare recipients without work requirements.”
I have to think the Romney team has done some legwork (or focus-group work, to be more specific) and found this to be a loser for the president. Moreover, it makes President Clinton's appearance at the Democratic National Convention that much more awkward for Obama.
The nub of this message is that Obama is giving the back of the hand to those people who Clinton said “work hard and play by the rules.” It is an issue aimed squarely at working- and middle-class voters who feel like they are working twice as hard to keep up.
Aside from the middle class, Obama has actually given the back of the hand to the poor, the people most hurt by a welfare system that before 1996 fostered dependency. Clinton’s bipartisan, popular achievement (in contrast to the partisan, unpopular Obamacare) was, contrary to the shrieks from the left, not a recipe for suffering but an amazingly successful piece of social legislation. The welfare rolls shrank; the pro-work ethic message was affirmed. Saul vows that Romney “would restore the work requirement in the welfare law so that recipients know the dignity of work instead of the dependency of a handout.”
Obama’s unilateral move to ditch the work requirement, if it had been taken in isolation, would be bad enough. But Romney, as is Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), is making the case that Obama systematically is pushing for a dependency society in which government acts as more than just a safety net. “Life of Julia,” the illustration of Obama’s cradle-to-grave welfare state, was one sign of Obama’s view. His removal of the stiff work requirement is another and one that is likely to stick in the craw of plenty of voters. Romney is on firm policy and political ground going after him.