Conservative groups are equally confident that Obama, freed from the fear of losing his reelection bid, would deliver on far-reaching left-wing dreams. GOP candidate Mitt Romney forecasts a runaway spending spree. Newt Gingrich envisions a “war” on the Catholic Church. The National Rifle Association predicts a crackdown on gun owners.
The funny thing about all this is: Obama himself hasn’t said he’ll do any of it.
In his speeches — over the first few months of his reelection campaign — the president has only sketched out a vague agenda for his next term. He wants to fix the immigration system. Put his health-care law into practice. Rebuild infrastructure. Revive manufacturing.
“And,” he told an audience in San Francisco, in what might be called a flourish of the obvious, “we’re going to have to figure out how to pay for all this stuff.”
This disconnect highlights one of the most unusual factors in an unusual campaign: Even after three years in office, Obama remains a political Rorschach test. His friends still project their brightest hopes on him. His enemies still project their deepest nightmares.
Both are still convinced they haven’t seen the real Obama yet — or the real Obama agenda.
And so, paradoxically, they believe the most important ideas of Obama’s reelection campaign are the ones he’s not talking about.
“All that first-term lip service to gun owners is part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters,” NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre said during the Conservative Political Action Conference. “And hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment during his second term!” His evidence was Obama’s past views on gun control, and his appointment of two Supreme Court justices the NRA considers hostile.
The speculation about a yet-unseen Obama agenda reflects an unusual commonality between left and right in a polarized election year. It also points to a strategy each side will use this year — trying to marshal excitement among core supporters by tapping into deep pools of worry or hope about Obama.
Obama’s own campaign says there’s nothing hidden here. They say the president has already laid out much of his vision for a second term.
“There shouldn’t be any mystery around the president’s agenda, whether it’s today or three years from now,” said Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. He said Obama “has outlined a vision for an economy that’s built to last, one where hard work pays, responsibility is rewarded and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”
For details, aides point to Obama’s State of the Union address this year and his budget proposal. These called for transforming the tax code to add taxes on the rich — the “Buffett Rule.” Obama also proposed making a college education more attainable and boosting American manufacturing.