Democrats are betting that a hard-hitting campaign of contrasts will bring President Obama a second term in next year's election. And so far, that's what Obama is delivering.
The compromise-oriented Obama appears less often on the campaign trail these days. Instead, a new, combative Obama is emerging.
That has been clear in his West Coast swing this week. He said a Republican president would bring "an approach to government that would fundamentally cripple America in meeting the challenges of the 21st Century." And he said GOP legislators in Congress are engaged in "a constant ideological pushback" to block his agenda and their opposition is harming the country.
Last night, Obama told a fund-raiser in West Hollywood, California, "We're going through tough times. But the question is where are we going to go next? We can go back to the old, worn-out ideas that the other side has been talking about where you basically let corporations write their own rules, and we dismantle environmental regulations and we dismantle labor regulations, and we cut taxes for folks who don't need it and weren't even asking for it, and then we say to you, you're on your own, good luck, because you're not going to get any help. ... That's one vision of America. But that's not the vision that we fought for in 2008."
Democratic pollster Geoff Garin, who advises many congressional Democrats and was a senior strategist for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2008, says the personalities of candidates always matter, as does an incumbent's record in office. And both of those factors will be part of the mix as voters evaluate Obama. But Garin predicts that, in the end, voters will cast their ballots based on "two different policy directions"--Obama's approach based on using government to effect change, and, on the other hand, the Republican approach based on less government and lower taxes. It's wise for Obama to starkly describe those differences, Garin adds.