The prairie setting was ripe with personal and political symbolism: Obama's mother and grandparents were from Kansas (good chance to flash his humble roots credentials). Osawatomie also was where Teddy Roosevelt in 1910 unveiled his vision for a New Nationalism, calling for "practical equality of opportunity for all." Obama invoked the former president's name and pointedly noted Roosevelt was branded a radical and a socialist back then — labels that have a familiar ring to Obama today.
"He really wants to hit the equality of opportunity, the fairness argument that has traditionally worked very well for Democrats," says John Murphy, a University of Illinois associate professor specializing in presidential rhetoric. "Think way back to the New Deal, the Fair Deal, those were all slogans based on, 'Hey, everybody gets an equal shot.'"
Murphy also says the recent Wall Street protests — where anger over income disparity prompted the rallying cry, "We are the 99 percent!" — deserve credit for putting the issue on the radar. "The Occupy movement has given an opening to Obama to make the arguments that might not have been there," he says. "It helped set the agenda just like the Tea Party did in 2010."
OPPORTUNITY SOCIETY: A phrase with long Republican lineage now used by Romney to describe a society in which people and businesses succeed based on merit and free enterprise, not government doling out benefits, regardless of effort. Reducing the size of federal government is essential. Reagan spoke of an opportunity society and Newt Gingrich's Conservative Opportunity Society (founded in 1983) preached the importance of moving from a 'liberal welfare state' to one centered on opportunity.
ENTITLEMENT OR GOVERNMENT-CENTERED SOCIETY: See above. Romney's criticism of Obama policies, contending the president is transforming America so people rely more on government because the economy does less. Romney synonyms: "heavy hand of government" or "the invisible boot of government," which he claims stifle free enterprise, "one of the greatest forces of good this world has ever known."
YOU'RE-ON-YOUR-OWN ECONOMICS: Obama's words to describe how he says Republicans respond to Americans unable to fend for themselves. His shorter version: "Tough luck." He says that's the GOP's response to those who need help because they're poor, don't have health insurance or are jobless. Obama calls it a "cramped narrow conception" of liberty.
SOCIAL DARWINISM: The label some Democrats have attached to GOP House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's fiscal austerity plan for a sweeping overhaul of Medicare, deep social service cuts and lower tax rates. Many Republicans, including Romney, have expressed support as a way to curb government spending. Many Democrats say this approach would squeeze the already struggling poor, forcing them to compete for fewer resources while the wealthy would thrive, a cruel economic survival of the fittest. Obama called the plan "thinly veiled" Social Darwinism.
CLASS WARFARE: A wide-ranging criticism by Romney and other Republicans of the Occupy Wall Street movement and Obama policies that highlight income inequity, notably the Buffett rule. The proposal is named after billionaire Warren Buffett and calls for everyone earning a $1 million a year or more to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes. Buffett himself has complained that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.
Romney claims Obama is trying to stoke envy by focusing on the income gap on the campaign trail. Early this year, Romney told a TV interviewer: "I think it's fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like."
Obama says asking the rich to sacrifice more to help in tough times is not class warfare, but advancing the nation's welfare.
FOOTNOTE: During the GOP primaries, the "class warfare" line was a verbal bludgeon for Republicans to bash one another. Rick Santorum and Gingrich both pilloried Romney with the phrase.