Why Obama Is Winning The Fiscal Cliff Debate

Obama has the messaging and the momentum on his G.O.P. adversaries, who increasingly are scrambling and playing defense.

Barack Obama is a legendary campaigner, and with election momentum still whisking him along, he and his staff are making a great case to extend the Bush tax cuts for 98% of Americans. How are they doing this? By actually making a case, occasionally even unveiling a point we haven’t heard before. The G.O.P. is not really doing this. The Republicans are playing defense, responding to Obama’s points instead of making their own, and providing lines that are at least three presidential campaigns old.

The Obama camp is doing what Republicans have beaten them at for years: making points that make people who disagree with you sound bad. Such as: we want to put $2,000 in the pocket of every middle class family. Here’s Sheila Whatever. She has two kids and a job, and she needs that money for daycare. Here’s Johnny Someone. He has student loans and his own business, and a tax increase would make him take a crappy job that he doesn’t want and would stifle his entrepreneurial spirit. Anyone want to disagree? The hashtag #my2k provided endless 140 character stories like these that the White House can showcase. Then they backed it up with a report on consumer spending and how increased taxes would dampen it. Two solid first downs with some extra yardage.

Republicans are left defending not (modestly) raising taxes on the top 2%. They haven’t managed to make a case about the 98%. They even abandoned trickle-down style rationales, because people don’t buy that the way they did when Reagan said it.

It is still very hard to sell the American public on the idea that anyone should be paying more money, but it’s the easiest thing in the world to sell the idea that YOU should pay less. No one is bothering to point out that “less” actually means “not more,” because the whole debate actually centers around for whom the Bush tax cuts will be retained and for whom they will expire. fiscal cliff fiscal cliff

So, Obama fans, enjoy this moment of clarity when the administration is making a dynamic case and is expertly working the political landscape. In t minus 33 days, we are likely back to the standard quagmire.

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