The night of his victories in Maryland, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia, Mitt Romney laid out the ground upon which he will stand to fight his fall battle with Barack Obama.
Obama, said Mitt, seeks “a government-centered society.”
But Mitt would restore an “opportunity society” built on the foundations of freedom and private enterprise.
“Romney spoke in upbeat, elevated and optimistic tones that were steeped in themes of patriotism crafted for a general election,” said The New York Times.
That same day, President Obama went before America’s editors to lay out the ground on which he intends to fight.
His overarching themes will be security and fairness—social and economic security for the American people and a reduction of income inequality in a country where the top 1 percent does extraordinarily well while the middle class treads water:
Can we succeed as a country where a shrinking number of people do exceedingly well while a growing number struggle to get by?...“If you benefit from programs you pay nothing to support, why would you vote for a Republican president who would cut those programs?”
This is…the defining issue of our time….It’s why I ran in 2008. It’s what my presidency has been about. It’s why I’m running again….I can’t remember a time when the choice between competing visions of our future has been so unambiguously clear.
With that, the president turned to the budget of Rep. Paul Ryan, which Romney had called “marvelous”:
This congressional Republican budget is…a Trojan Horse…an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly veiled social Darwinism…antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everybody who’s willing to work for it.
Whereas the Romney-Ryan vision emphasizes individual initiative and entrepreneurship, Obama’s appeal is to the values of community and common purpose.
Yet listening to Obama describe his Republican rivals recalls to mind Theodore Roosevelt assailing the “malefactors of great wealth” and Franklin Roosevelt savaging the “economic royalists” and “money-changers in the temple of our civilization.”
Obama’s rhetoric is not remotely in that league. But the campaign he intends to run, which can be deduced from his speech to the editors, is one that the Republicans had best take seriously.
Obama intends to plant himself in the populist-progressive tradition of William Jennings Bryan, FDR, and Harry Truman and to demonize Mitt and the Ryan Republicans as the tireless toadies of the 1 percent.
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