Obama campaign memo: Preview of a highly negative 2012?

The campaign memo, released Monday, said that Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and the rest of the Republican field have ‘embraced policies that the American people oppose.’

Susan Walsh/AP
President Obama listens as a reporter asks a question at the start of a Cabinet Meeting at the White House in Washington on Monday.

The Obama reelection campaign, up against the president’s low job-approval numbers, is on the offensive – and trying to lash the Republican Party to the conservative tea party movement.

In a memo released Monday by the Chicago-based campaign, press secretary Ben LaBolt went after by name the two GOP presidential front-runners – Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney – saying that they and the rest of the Republican field have “embraced policies that the American people oppose.”

“The campaign to win the Republican nomination has become a campaign to win the hearts and minds of the tea party,” Mr. LaBolt said in a memo addressed to “Interested Parties.” “They would return to policies that have been tried before and done nothing to improve economic security for the middle class, rewarding special interests who can afford to pay for lobbyists instead of looking out for working families.”

Thirteen months before the November 2012 election, Republicans see the memo as a preview of the Obama campaign’s argument against the president’s eventual opponent. The memo highlights a range of issues, from tax policy to Social Security to Wall Street regulation, citing polls that favor the administration’s positions.

But its overarching theme centers on the fairness argument – asking the wealthy and corporations to pay their “fair share” – which President Obama’s opponents call “class warfare.”

“While the President is fighting to create jobs and put money in the pockets of middle class Americans, the Republican candidates have proposed extending tax breaks for large corporations and tax cuts for the wealthiest while allowing special interests to write their own rules,” the memo says.

It also goes after Governor Perry for calling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” and Mr. Romney for supporting the addition of private accounts to the system – or, as the memo puts it, “turning Social Security funds over to Wall Street.”

The stringing together of favorable poll results is standard campaign fare. To read the Obama campaign memo, one would think there’s no problem in the public’s eye with the new health-care law, which the Republican candidates want to repeal.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, after all, found last month that 52 percent of the public opposes repeal of the law. But in the same poll, a plurality – 43 percent – said they had an unfavorable opinion of the law, versus 41 percent who review it favorably.

The memo also obscures the fact that Perry is an outlier among Republicans on immigration policy, particularly for his support for Texas policy that grants illegal immigrants in-state tuition at state universities. The other Republicans oppose that policy. The Obama administration supports a federal version of the DREAM Act that would create a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants.

Republicans see the Obama campaign memo as a harbinger of a highly negative campaign ahead.

“Other than offer solutions of their own, Team Obama has decided to go on the attack and make the tea party public enemy No. 1,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “The timing of this memo is quite interesting, given the first lady’s visit to Target. The Obama administration clearly feels it faces middle-class misgivings.”

Last Thursday, first lady Michelle Obama donned a baseball cap and sunglasses for a shopping excursion to a Target in suburban Alexandria, Va. The only person at the store who recognized her – aside from her Secret Service agents, an assistant, and an Associated Press photographer – was her cashier.

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