Winning Back The Independents


My view is that the McConnell-Biden deal - for that's who negotiated it - is great for Obama. Why? Because it will greatly add to economic growth in the next two years, the sine qua non of survival in this economic climate; because, once the Democrats had failed to pass a budget before the election, this was the best Obama could possibly get; and because Obama - especially in his riveting press conference yesterday - took the angry and beleaguered position of doing the post-partisan best for the American people, rather than trying to score one against the GOP or for the Dems.

I know many Democrats voted for him to get revenge on Bush (I sure understand the sentiment) but many others voted for him to get past this partisan crap and get things done that would pragmatically ease America's economic woes, tackle deep issues such as the debt and healthcare and end the wars responsibly. In my view, that's his core identity, and why he's president. Taking on his base as he did yesterday will help him. Gallup's early polling suggests I'm not crazy or so in the tank I should be dismissed as delusional:

By yielding on the tax cuts, Obama extracted Republican leaders' support for extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed -- and large majorities of independents support both measures. Additionally, according to a post-election Gallup poll, by 49% to 24%, independents are more inclined to favor partisan compromise over principled standoffs in Congress. Thus, rather than get mired in a partisan squabble that could result in higher taxes for the middle class come January, Obama can present himself as the architect of a new era of compromise.

While Republicans generally don't agree with extending unemployment benefits, they broadly support extending the tax cuts, and at least a slim majority of Democrats support both measures. In fact, the only groups not supporting both proposals are liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans. The more moderate members of both parties join independents in generally supporting the proposals. 

Bloomberg's polling focuses on the unpopularity of tax cuts for upper-income Americans. What's needed now, of course, is for Obama to pivot from this to using his State of the Union for a major push for long-term debt reduction in the next two years. He's gotten all the pro-growth spending he needed to get re-elected, now he needs to cement his standing with Independents, centrist Democrats and Republicans, and make saving our fiscal future his overwhelmingly dominant theme of the next two years.

The rationale? He was elected to tackle the hard stuff, as pragmatically as possible. He has tackled the recession and health insurance; he has reshaped the war on terror; he now needs to revolutionize America's long-term fiscal health along Bowles-Simpson lines. And Paul Krugman will just have to stomach it.