The Republicans Are Lost
Obama doesn't spend a lot of time disparaging his potential opponents in these speeches, at least not in great detail, but there is a clear, if still developing, message about the other side steadily emerging. The most exacting dig that we saw in any of the speeches came in his January 19 speech at the Apollo in Harlem (the instantly famous singing speech), during which he joked, "We have not seen a choice this stark in years. I mean, even in 2008, the Republican nominee wasn’t a climate change denier. He was in favor of immigration reform. He was opposed to torture. The contrast this year could not be sharper." So, yes, he's specifically making fun of Santorum, Gingrich, and company there, but in most of these speeches he attacks the general Republican ethos, one that's abandoned long-held principles in the blind pursuit of thwarting Obama at every turn. In particular on issues of bettering the nation, infrastructure and industry-wise, Obama takes the current crop of Republicans to task for ignoring their own party's history. Aside from frequently cracking that "Republicans suddenly don't believe in building things," on many occasions Obama shames the current GOP by invoking progressive Republicans of the past, like Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower, who championed big government initiatives like the Transcontinental Railroad, a progressive income tax, and the interstate highway system, respectively. He also slyly reminds his audiences that FDR was helped by a Republican Congress to create the G.I. Bill, so shame on you John Boehner and everyone else. In these speeches, Obama is implying that all of the current governmental nihilism is owed to people like Mitch McConnell, who infamously said that the Republicans' current top priority is defeating Obama. That political strategy is not "on the level," in Obama's view. In these speeches he's working to frame the current GOP as nothing more than partisan jerks who "put party before country" (an oft-recurring phrase). It's a clear ploy to the perpetually dissatisfied middle/moderate/independent crowd, who may not like everything about Obama, but hey, at least he's trying to do something rather than attempting to stop everything. (He often cites, sometimes a bit inaccurately, the John F. Kennedy quote "the thing that surprised me the most [about Washington] was that things were as bad as we'd been saying they were.") Obama often describes the Republican's view of America as "cramped" (it's an odd word choice) instead of the "big" America that he envisions, one in which the guiding philosophy isn't "we're better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves," as he describes the right's current mindset.
This Isn't Class Warfare
The whole "fend for themselves" thing is partly a nod to the "spread the wealth around" outrage and the right's accusations that class warfare is guiding the left's tax policy. Obama repeatedly tackles that topic in his speeches, often making the quip that "it's not class warfare, it's math." He repeatedly makes reference to his own wealth ("blessed" is the preferred term) and insists that he sees it as his own duty to pay his fair share. There was a part of his speech on March 1, at an ABC Carpet and Home store, in which he talked class not in terms of warfare but in terms of "values"; he reframes government policies that give people help as "the idea we're all in this together ... and that's a value." If not exactly verbatim, it's an argument that's repeated in many of his other speeches and it sums up his rhetorical approach to the class warfare issue pretty well. He's refuting basically the entire Tea Party platform while also reminding us of the economic garbage dump he inherited from the Bush administration. (He makes a lot of references to "the past decade," which the right will surely take him to task for, as he's often accused of relying too heavily on Bush-bashing.) This ties into his message of patience, that the change is still coming, by stressing that we can't just regress because things have been bumpy. It's probably galvanizing for an Obama supporter to hear/read, but will it really mean anything to someone who worries we're on the wrong path? Basically saying "don't worry it will get better, and anyway it could be so much worse," might not inspire that much confidence.