Europe is about to become central to the 2012 campaign. Only this time, it will be Democrats who are using “European” as an epithet against Republicans.

Bill Clinton got things going the other day by claiming a vote for Mitt Romney and Republicans is a vote for “European economic policy.” Top Democrats now say they will amplify this line of attack:

“We have a laboratory experiment going on for what the Republicans want to do here, and that’s Europe,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York. “Particularly England, because they had the equivalent of a Democratic government, and Cameron comes in with austerity, and now they’re in a recession.”

Mr. Obama, Mr. Schumer said, “can point to England as what could happen if the Republicans win.”

The reason this is interesting — and could prove important — is that it provides an opening for Dems to seriously engage the argument over the real relationship between government spending and the economy. In some key ways, Dems have ceded this argument for too long to the GOP, and have even used formulations and imagery that have reinforced conservative frames about how cutting government can spur growth.

So if Dems are going to use Europe to broaden the argument against austerity, perhaps they’ll need to make a case for what government can do for the economy in a more concerted and direct way. It’s not an easy argument to make, given the public’s experience of the last few years and the understandable skepticism that has resulted about government’s role in creating jobs. But it’ll be interesting to see where this goes.

* Labor, Dems debate Walker victory: A good Dan Eggen story on how Scott Walker’s win has jump-started a robust debate in labor and Dem circles over how to revamp their approach to the spending advantage the right will continue to enjoy going forward. As DCCC chair Steve Israel puts it: “On-the-ground organizing is critically important, but it must be coupled with an aggressive air campaign.”

With some wealthy donors on the left pursuing a strategy of only investing in organizing, while mostly ceding the airwaves to well-funded conservative groups, this debate will intensify as the campaign heats up.

* What if the stimulus actually worked? Doug Elmendorf, the head of the nonpartisan and respected Congressional Budget Office, gamely tries to explain to Republicans that, yes, according to economists, the stimulus actually did add millions of jobs, and may have prevented the country from sliding into depression.

* Brinkmanship intensifies over student loans: Republicans continue to insist the proposal to extend low student loan rates be paid for by increasing the amount federal workers pay for their retirement or by other means. But the White House is quietly signaling that they won’t accept the GOP approach, even as administration officials are not yet revealing what their next move in this battle will be.

The standoff has been getting little attention lately, but guess what: There’s less than a month until the rates go up — and this fight is central to the Obama campaign message and to the battle over the youth vote.

* A bit of good news on the economy: Jobless claims fell again, a small bright spot amid a spate of bad news lately, and Steve Benen has it in chart form.

* Obama holds lead in Virginia: A new Quinnipiac poll finds that Obama is up by five points in Virginia, 47-42, despite having a rough political stretch. If the Wisconsin results suggest that Obama may struggle to win back blue collar whites, holding New South states like Virginia could be pivotal to his chances of winning despite expected losses in the Rust Belt.

* Terrible numbers on health care reform: A new New York Times/CBS poll finds that 41 percent want to see all of the health law overturned, while another 27 percent want to see the individual mandate tossed — a total of 68 percent, or more than two thirds.

I don’t buy the idea that a decision against the law carries political benefits for Dems. But one outstanding question is whether there’s a downside for Republicans — with individual provisions of the law still popular, would a decision making repeal a reality put pressure on them to say what they would replace the law with?

* Today in questionable journalism: Republicans are cheerfully circulating this paragraph from the Associated Press this morning:

In “Virginia or Iowa or North Carolina or California, all across the country,” Obama said, “there are a lot of folks who are still wondering — are we going to be able to fully deliver on that promise of a country that is thriving and has an economy that is built to last?” Obama offered no new prescriptions for how he would answer Americans’ economic questions. He said he’s pushing a number of bills in Congress aimed at boosting jobs and growth but has gotten little help from Republican lawmakers.

Note that it’s presented as fact that Obama offered no new jobs prescriptions, but we're only told he claims he’s pushing jobs bills that Republicans continue to block. It’s not as if this claim can be factually verified, or anything.

* And Wisconsin and the death spiral of organized labor: Must read from Richard Yeselson: The Wisconsin results confirm that labor continues to lose its cultural grip on public opinion, with an all-but-certain end result: “many Americans clueless about unions today may grow to regret losing a world they barely knew existed.”

What else?