His remarks had a few different audiences. What markets heard was that the White House remains fully committed to the $950 billion in discretionary-spending cuts agreed to in the debt-ceiling deal and to the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts that the Budget Control Act promised would follow an admission of failure from the supercommittee. If any ratings agencies out there were getting antsy, they’re probably calmer now.
What Republicans heard was that the president has little interest in cutting a deal with them — or, at the least, little faith that such a deal is possible. Either way, the White House has moved on to campaign footing. The president’s comments weren’t designed to smooth the way for a compromise with the GOP. They were designed to help the president defeat the Republicans in the coming election.
What Democrats heard was that the White House intends to turn to extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance, as well as fighting for increased infrastructure spending. The president repeatedly said Congress has a full year to figure out a better solution on deficit reduction. The other items, however, need to be handled before the end of 2011.
As for voters? Well, they probably weren’t watching a hastily scheduled set of remarks at 6 p.m. Those who catch snippets on the news later will probably hear that the supercommittee has failed, that various players are pointing fingers at one another and that Washington remains broken. In other words, no real news here.