Obama to middle class: Who loves you?
The middle class is back.
Amid the din of Republican cries of class warfare, the Occupy Wall Street movement and a fresh economic report that America’s rich are getting much, much richer, one phrase punctuated weekend remarks from President Barack Obama and his campaign strategists: the middle class.
As the Democratic president struggles to reconnect with his base — liberals, black Americans and younger voters — he is taking up the middle class mantra to target the crucial voting bloc.
This weekend there was no escaping who the Obama team’s message was aimed at.
In acknowledging the country’s growing income gap: “In fact, the average income for the top 1 percent of Americans has risen almost seven times faster than the income of the average middle-class family.”
In touting his $447 billion jobs plan: “But there are steps we can take right now to put people back to work and restore some of the security that middle-class Americans have lost over the last few decades.”
In rolling out a series of economic initiatives last week: “The truth is, we can no longer wait for Congress to do its job. The middle-class families who’ve been struggling for years are tired of waiting. They need help now. So where Congress won’t act, I will.”
It was reminiscent of the last Democratic president to win re-election. Bill Clinton heavily courted struggling middle-class voters in 1996 and also pushed through a number of initiatives via executive order in the face of Republican opposition in Congress.
But Obama has faced some challenges in winning over blue-collar voters who were a base of support for Clinton in 1996. In Rust Belt states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, economic anxiety has cost Obama support among some of those voters.
Obama’s senior campaign strategist David Axelrod took up the mantra Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” saying middle-class plight was about wages, not just jobs, and will require long-term attention to improve and stay that way.
Axelrod said he expected the middle class to be crucial in Obama’s push to retain the White House next year.
Senior White House adviser David Plouffe, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” mentioned “the middle class” a whopping 15 times, with six of those references tied to tax cuts.
Obama, faced with looming budget deficits that threatened the stellar U.S. credit rating over the summer, has called
for higher taxes on the wealthy and big corporations as part of $3.6 trillion in deficit cuts over 10 years.
Reuters photo by Jason Reed (The First Couple with the owners of Wood’s Orchard where the Obamas picked Halloween pumpkins in Hampton, Virginia October 19, 2011, on his bus trip to promote his American Jobs Act)