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In State of the Union address, Obama tries out for hero of middle class (+video)

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama put a name and a face to his 'defining issue' of economic fairness. She's Debbie Bosanek, billionaire Warren Buffett's secretary.

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“We will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits,” Obama said, laying out what he called a “blueprint for an economy that’s built to last.” That economy, he said, would be built on “American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.”

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Again, he went to the tax code: Companies should not get a tax break for shipping jobs and profits overseas, he said. Multinationals should also be required to pay a global minimum tax. And he proposed tax breaks for American manufacturers.

But with little ground for cooperation with Congress, the chances of tax reform before Election Day are slim to none. That makes any kind of economic boost that would come from a changed tax code a more distant prospect.

“For better or worse, an incumbent president’s record is at the heart of his reelection prospects,” writes Brookings Institution scholar William Galston in a post-State of the Union analysis. “[Obama] cannot run away from that record; he must run on it.”

Obama’s speech contained the usual recitation of jobs lost before and right after he took office, amid a crisis in the financial sector and housing markets. But, as the unemployment rate trickles downward, Obama asserted that “the state of our Union is getting stronger.”

And in an echo of President Truman’s successful 1948 reelection pitch against a “do-nothing Congress,” Obama declared that he intends to “fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place.”

In the Republican reply to Obama’s address, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels acknowledged that the president did not cause the economic woes that continue to this day.

“But he was elected on a promise to fix them, and he cannot claim that the last three years have made things anything but worse,” Governor Daniels said.

The sight of Daniels delivering the State of the Union reply no doubt gave a few Republicans a pang over his absence from the campaign trail. Daniels had strongly considered running, but opted out. Instead, the Republican race has boiled down to a race between two men with distinct flaws and strengths. But they are united in their desire to see Obama defeated in November.

“President Obama's class warfare, his commitment to raising taxes, increasing regulation, and his failed ideology make his vision for America one of the most radical in our history,” wrote former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in an e-mail to supporters Wednesday morning.

Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, delivered a prebuttal in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, before Obama’s speech.

“The president’s agenda sounds less like ‘built to last’ and more like doomed to fail,” Romney said. “What he’s proposing is more of the same: more taxes, more spending, and more regulation.  nd all of his proposals involve ‘big’ government and ‘big’ price tags.”

RECOMMENDED: How much do you know about the State of the Union speeches? A quiz. 

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