* Obama’s SOTU speech reveals his reelection challenge: Who will swing voters ultimately blame for Obama’s failure to triumph over determined GOP obstructionism? Respected Dem pollster Stan Greenberg convened a dial session during last night’s speech with some 50 Colorado swing voters, and their responses captured Obama’s reelection challenge in a nutshell.
The voters — including Republicans — responded well to Obama’s economic fairness theme and call for a new “Buffett Rule”:
The dials spiked when the President made his strong populist pitch for the “Buffet Rule,” with Democrats exceeding 80 on our 0-to-100 scale and both independents and Republicans moving above 70. There was no polarization here, as voters across the political spectrum gave Obama high marks. And Obama’s framing of the economic challenges facing the country through the lens of post-World War II America was particularly effective. He also received high marks for his proposal to change the tax code to encourage “insourcing” instead of “outsourcing.”
This suggested that Obama may have accomplished a key goal: Persuading swing voters that he’s an aggressive advocate for the middle class. But here’s the major caveat: The voters continued to show “deep skepticism” that Obama could translate his words into actions.
The swing voters were deeply split on who is to blame for this — Dems blamed GOP obstructionism, but GOP-leaning voters blamed Obama. The big question here is whether swing voters will conclude that despite Obama best intentions, his inability to roll over GOP obstructionism — even if voters understand that obstructionism to be thoroughly political in nature — shows he’s too ineffective to deserve a second term.
Still, Obama’s basic pitch for government intervention to restore economic fairness and combat inequality seems to have resonated, even among Republicans, suggesting the speech may have had some success.
* Obama’s policy ideas require Congressional cooperation: Ezra Klein runs down the major policy ideas in Obama’s speech, and notes that they have something in common: Many of them require GOP Congressional cooperation that they aren’t going to get.
Which may be exactly the point: The speech was about telling Americans what Obama wants to do, and what Republicans won’t do. The question, again, will come down to whether the voters’ conclusions about GOP Congressional obstructionism matter in their choice of president.
* Experts shed more light on Romney’s taxes: The Los Angeles Times has a nice rundown on Romney’s just-released tax returns. Experts point out that Romney has not explained his rationale for offshore investments, and note that even if they are held in blind trusts, he still has a measure of control over them.
Key nugget, from a UCLA law professor: “It suggests something about his view of the tax code or his diversification or his confidence in the U.S. If the president doesn’t have confidence in the U.S., how can everybody else?”
* Dems press case on taxes: The DNC is out with a new Web video hitting Romney with this question: “Why would someone put money overseas in a Swiss bank account?”
With some experts convinced that there’s no reason to doubt the Romney campaign’s claim that he gained no tax advantage from offshoring, Dems will continue to ask why this money was placed overseas in the first place, as a way to press the case for disclosure of the rest of Romney’s tax returns, and to keep the story alive.
* But Romney team says they’ve defused tax issue: Scott Conroy has an interesting look at the Romney campaign’s conviction that staying the course despite Romney’s serious travails will ultimately pay off, including this curious assessment of the tax returns issue from a senior adviser: “we’ve got that behind us.”
Really? Either this is pure spin or wishful thinking, but no, this issue is not “behind us” at all. This is only the first taste of it.
* Navy SEALS rescue hostages: While you were sleeping, the same crew that killed Bin Laden rescued two hostages being held by Somali pirates. Obama’s statement:
On Monday, I authorized an operation to rescue Jessica Buchanan, an American citizen who was kidnapped and held against her will for three months in Somalia. Thanks to the extraordinary courage and capabilities of our Special Operations Forces, yesterday Jessica Buchanan was rescued and she is on her way home. As Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder of the troops who carried out this mission, and the dedicated professionals who supported their efforts.
* Newt-mentum in Florida!!! A new Quinnipiac poll finds that Gingrich has wiped out Romney’s 12 point lead in the state and narrowed it to a statistically insignificant two points, 36-34.
Key Newt-mentum nugget: “Gingrich gets 40 percent to 34 percent for Romney among likely voters surveyed after the South Carolina primary.”
* Mitch Daniels takedown of the day: No, Mitch, Steve Jobs’s Apple did not create more American jobs than Obama’s auto rescue saved. But Daniels is still Very Serious!
* Special bonus takedown of the day: Jared Bernstein skewers Politifact’s latest howler: That Obama’s claim of three million private sector jobs created in the last 22 months is “half true.”
Just terrible. These guys need to revisit the basic definition of the word “fact.”
* SOTU showed Obama confident in reelection message: As Jonathn Cohn notes, his speech last night — and its similarities to other recent efforts — show he and his team think they’ve got a winning message in place:
Together, they sketched out an ambitious vision of government, as an engine of economic growth and protector of opportunity for the lower- and middle-classes. Tonight, Obama was doubling down on those arguments — in no small part because, as policy and politics, they seem to be paying off.
* And a great move by MSNBC: A hearty congratulations to Steve Benen for his well-deserved move, and to MSNBC for a great hire.