To get reelected, Barack Obama is following the Bill Clinton 1996 script. Clinton’s task was easier, enjoying an economic bubble led by the dot.com boom, and facing a decidedly underwhelming opponent in Senator Bob Dole. But one of the features of the ‘96 Clinton effort that we will hear a lot this year, is how radical and dangerous those Republicans are.
Clinton routinely warned the nation in 1996 about the GOP’s “risky tax schemes” and “anti-Medicare” proposals that would “explode the deficit” and “rob seniors” of America’s promise. One can hear those echoes in Obama’s remarks about the budget and about Congressman Paul Ryan’s approach to deficit reduction – an approach embraced by Mitt Romney and most other Republicans.
One of the hallmarks of the Clinton years was to try and seize the political center and cast his Republican opponents as radicals – a task made easier by the missteps of Newt Gingrich, Tom Delay, and other GOP leaders. His clashes with congressional Republicans, particularly Gingrich, over Medicare were classic political theater.
Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton. But he’s trying. He cleverly hit Romney and Ryan over the head with Newt Gingrich’s remarks from last year that Ryan’s budget plan was “right wing social engineering.” Expect to hear that from now until November, because it works for him and, yes, Newt Gingrich actually said that. (Just one example of why Gingrich is a disaster-in-waiting for the national Republican Party)
Obama is no moderate, but he knows that to get reelected he must woo independents and cast Romney and company as too far to the political right. That will be his theme, and Mitt Romney should be prepared to counter it.