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Can Obama turn it around?

A feistier President Obama has emerged as he makes the case for his jobs bill. But will campaigning for a plan that faces dim prospects with Republicans be enough to save his presidency?

By Staff writer / September 18, 2011

President Barack Obama speaks about the American Jobs Act, Tuesday, Sept. 13, at Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School in Columbus, Ohio.

Tony Dejak/AP



Sometimes in politics, style matters as much as substance. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has shot to the top of the Republican presidential field as much on his charisma as on his record.

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So, too, a feistier, more aggressive President Obama has emerged since Labor Day, as he makes the case for new spending to promote job creation and tax increases to pay for it. Gone are the compromises he was willing to make in July over cuts to Social Security. And when he unveils his deficit reduction plan on Monday, he is expected to propose tax hikes on millionaires – a populist gambit that will at least satisfy his Democratic base.

But will campaigning enthusiastically for a plan that faces dim prospects in a Republican-controlled Congress be enough to save his presidency?

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“He has to get what he can, campaign in a very focused and determined way, and hope that the economy shifts a little bit in his favor,” says William Galston, a former domestic policy adviser to President Clinton.

Obama was noticeably energetic in his Sept. 8 address on jobs before a joint session of Congress. His bigger-than-expected $447 billion package includes spending on infrastructure, an extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, aid to states to prevent teacher layoffs, and tax credits for employers who hire veterans and the long-term unemployed.

Congressional GOP leaders at first reacted cautiously to the proposals, a possible sign of willingness to find common ground. Many of the ideas, after all, had enjoyed Republican support in the past. But on Sept. 12, when Obama released his legislation and his proposal for how to pay for it – tax hikes on the wealthy, private jet owners, and oil and gas companies – GOP leaders closed ranks. They cast doubt on the plan’s job-creating potential and its ability to pass Congress, in whole or in part. They also objected to Obama’s repeated demands to “pass this bill.”

Some Democrats don't like Obama's plan

Some congressional Democrats have also registered objections to Obama’s plan. Some members would rather see it broken up into smaller pieces, so they can support the parts they like and reject others. More conservative Democrats – in particular some who are up for reelection – are unhappy with the tax hikes, while some liberals object to the tax cuts.

But to many Democrats, who have grown increasingly disillusioned with their standard-bearer, Obama’s stylistic revival offers hope of a fighting chance in 2012.


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