Analysis: Obama's economic speeches pound Republicans

WASHINGTON Wed Aug 7, 2013 1:03am EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about home ownership at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Arizona August 6, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about home ownership at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Arizona August 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The economic policy speeches President Barack Obama has been delivering in recent weeks are turning out to be blunt attacks on Republicans, with an eye toward coming fiscal battles and the 2014 congressional elections.

Obama's basic message across the country, most recently sounded on Tuesday in Arizona, is that while he has made great strides in improving the economy, further progress is being thwarted by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives.

By obstructing his proposals, Republicans are hurting the nation's "most vulnerable children," Obama said, along with farmers, the military, home-buyers, middle-class job seekers, immigrants and businesses seeking to hire immigrants.

From Galesburg, Illinois, to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Phoenix, Arizona, Obama has been unrelenting in tone, attacking "slash-and-burn partisanship," "phony scandals," and the "gutted" farm bill - all the work of Republicans now spoiling for a fight that "could plunge us back in financial crisis."

Offering what he considers a moderate position on overhauling policies governing the housing industry, Obama said in Phoenix on Tuesday: "First, private capital should take a bigger role in the mortgage market. I know that's confusing to folks who call me a socialist." [ID:nL1N0G71IR]

Republicans, equally combative, began their counterattack even before Obama hit the road on July 24. "He ought to stop threatening to shut down the government unless we raise taxes," House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said. "Americans aren't asking the question 'where are the speeches?' They're asking 'where are the jobs?'"

The barbs are likely to continue for some time.

The president and Republicans in Congress confront two major spending showdowns this fall: the first over a bill in September to continue funding the government and the second, probably in October, to raise the government's borrowing power so it can keep paying its bills.

CAMPAIGN FUNDRAISING WELL UNDER WAY

The midterm elections, held in years when a president is not being selected, are in November 2014 and fundraising by Democrats and Republicans is well under way. Both parties need issues to inspire contributions.

It is normal for a president to join the fray on behalf of his party in a midterm election, though White House officials insist that beyond fundraising for Democrats, Obama is not focused at all on the 2014 races.

"The president is focused on using every day in office to try to advance his agenda and when it comes to affecting the outcome of the midterms, the Republicans appear to be taking the lead on that," said a senior White House official.

But bit by bit, Obama is building an argument for why he feels many Republicans are willing to do damage to the U.S. economy for political gain.

Brad Woodhouse, head of the liberal group Americans United For Change, said Obama's speeches are helping to crystallize where the parties stand on the issues in a way that will prove helpful to Democrats in 2014.

"I think all of us would just prefer get the two parties together and get something done but I think it really does lay the groundwork for a foundation about priorities in midterms," said Woodhouse.

The potential for a government shutdown over the budget is tricky politics for Obama. On the one hand, Americans have generally sided with the president against attempts to shut down the federal government over budget politics.

But on the other hand, Obama was widely viewed as the loser in the debate over $84 billion in "sequestration" budget cuts that began in March. In most cases, Americans have simply shrugged and gotten accustomed to the cuts.

This makes it essential for Obama to make sure the blame falls squarely on Republicans for a government shutdown should one occur this fall.

"It feels like a campaign and it feels like they are setting it up so he (Obama) can't be blamed if they go to a government shutdown," said one Democratic loyalist.

While the outcome of the budget showdown could potentially help Obama politically, he still faces difficulty in turning this into votes for more Democratic lawmakers in November 2014.

Democrats need a net gain of 27 seats to win control of the House. They control the Senate with a 54-46 margin and may see their majority narrowed in 2014.

Dave Wasserman, an expert on House races at the non-partisan Cook Political Report, said he could not see how Democrats can pick up House seats in 2014, but that Obama has to make an effort to improve chances that he can get some action taken on his agenda before he turns into a lame duck president.

"Obama has very little choice," he said. "The parties in Congress are so polarized that he can't reasonably search for Republican votes in the House. They simply aren't there on big ticket issues."

(Editing by Fred Barbash and Mohammad Zargham)

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Comments (59)
Huhh wrote:
We have to cut expenses at home, the gov’t has to also…nuf said.

Side note, I’m greatly amused at the capitalization of Republican and Democrat, but not the president, lol

Aug 07, 2013 1:48am EDT  --  Report as abuse
BeHappyNow wrote:
Can anybody begin to imagine the most economically devastating president blaming someone else? Five years of Obama policy destroying America and he tries to blame someone else. The Obama disaster has one culprit – Obama. His policies have devastated America.

Aug 07, 2013 1:56am EDT  --  Report as abuse
freddykruger wrote:
why is it that both republicans and democrats are quick to talk about each other negatively, but neither one of them have not got even the slightest bill or many never produce a jobs bill that produces a job out side of a McDonald’s job or a janitor. low paying jobs or no jobs is the only options that all this fighting and back stabbing produces.all the republicans need to be recalled and fired in the morning without any pensions or ex congress peoples retirement for their poor job performance. Obama, if he does not straighten his act up needs to be impeach and imprisoned! all investment firms need to be made insolvent! they have no real liquidity so they need to be gone in the morning! the complete system of politics needs to be complete removed from the US government! The working poor are tired of all the lying,spying and thievery the government and the 1% are doing on us! We the people are gearing up for a revolutions you republican and democrat jerks, and we are coming after you!

Aug 07, 2013 2:05am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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