Obama Plays It Down the Middle

Could President Obama’s newly unveiled budget — which includes, he claims, funding cuts to programs he supports — represent an attempt to win over some conservative constituents before Nov. 4, 2012? Some analyst types are invoking the name of a certain former president and a strategy he once employed at a similar juncture in his own career. –KA


One difference between Clinton in 1995 and Obama in 2011 is that “Clinton sacrificed his agenda-setting powers to engage in triangulation — looking responsive more than proactive,” argued Wendy Schiller, a Brown University political science professor.

Obama “needed to present a tough budget, and depending on how it’s managed, the larger the Democratic outcry over it, the more credible he will seem to the fiscally concerned independent voters that are key to his re-election in 2012,” she said. The risk for Obama, Schiller said, is angering his party’s base voters “so much that they stay home in 2012.”

Schiller also warned of a backlash against Republicans calling for deeper cuts. There may be a large number of voters “who did not realize how much they needed federal spending until it was taken away from their communities,” she said. “Not only will that help Obama in 2012, it may do damage to the longer-term Republican goal of shrinking the size and scope of the federal government.”

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