In the past year, Obama has moved from a compromiser-in-chief looking to cut deals with the Republicans (to avoid such negative consequences as the end of the Bush tax cuts for middle-income earners, a government shutdown, and a default of on US government debt) to a semi-populist battler for the middle class who is eager to defy Republicans over issues of economic fairness and the role of government. Once the president was free of the debt-ceiling tar pit—and the Republicans were no longer holding the economy hostage—he launched a campaign for a jobs bill that emphasized confrontation, not negotiation. He and his aides had concluded that few, if any, worthwhile deals could be reached with House Speaker John Boehner, who was essentially held captive by the Tea Party wing of his party.
Consequently, Obama could leave behind the failed attempt to reach a grand bargain on deficit reduction and initiate a grand debate over national values.
Due to this shift, the 2012 race is shaping up as a titanic face-off between a president who advocates using government to bolster the economy and address inequities and Republicans who have one answer to everything: smother government and let the markets run free. In his speech, Obama called for "great projects." Republicans call for no projects—that is, nothing outside the private sector. This is a damn clear contrast.
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David Corn: "The 2012 race is shaping up as a titanic face-off"
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