President Obama is expected to set the major theme for his 2012 re-election campaign with a State of the Union address on January 24 that portrays him as the defender of the middle class and Republicans as the party of the rich and big corporations.
Democratic strategists say Obama's earlier campaign message--that his economic policies prevented a bad situation from getting worse--was weak and didn't connect with most voters. Now Obama has decided to shift gears in an attempt to take on the role of tribune of Middle America.
Among the policy initiatives that will be incorporated into his new message, Democratic strategists say, are support for federal assistance for various popular programs including college assistance and transportation projects, and helping to pay for them by raising taxes on the rich.
Democratic strategists add that this approach was bolstered by the fight with House Republicans in recent weeks over a proposal to extend the current payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans. House Republicans initially blocked a temporary fix, holding out for a year-long extension along with various conservative provisions. But in the end, the House GOP backed off, partly because the White House and the Democratic party succeeded in portraying the GOP as obstructionists who didn't want to give the middle class an immediate break.
The problem with the defender-of-the-middle-class strategy is that it might seem to be a diversion from the nation's Number One concern--creating jobs, according to Republican strategists.