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"Trust" to Join "Fairness" as Obama Buzzword, Sources Say

"Trust" to Join "Fairness" as Obama Buzzword, Sources Say

By Alexis Simendinger - April 17, 2012


If the White House gets its political way, "trust" will be a word President Obama and his surrogates use in the next few weeks as often as Obama has talked about "fairness," and Mitt Romney, once dubbed as hollow to the core, will increasingly be ID'd as a card-carrying ultra-conservative who bobbles into Etch A Sketch moments because his core is causing him problems.

There are six words at the end of that last sentence that cry out for quote marks, but the deep-background rules imposed Monday at the White House preclude the use of direct quotes or identifying the three “senior administration officials” who sought to lead reporters into the next phase of the campaign as well as strategy for Congress’ return to Washington.

Romney’s core has been filling in with far-right positions on education, gay marriage, immigration, Afghanistan, Iraq, taxes, the economy, energy and the environment, one of the officials asserted. Those policies, together with Romney’s remarkable degree of secrecy (imagine more quote marks) when it comes to his personal and professional approaches to problem-solving, will poison voters’ trust in the governance Romney would bring to the White House, the officials added.

On policy, Obama and Romney are pledging starkly different leadership in 2013 and beyond, according to the president’s team (whose “contrast” arguments between the two gelled as the former Massachusetts governor emerged as the de facto GOP nominee).

But if voters select the next president based on the state of the economy since 2009, the senior officials conceded that continued high unemployment and a slow recovery could complicate Obama’s plea that middle-class voters trust his vision for the economy in a second term.

The Rasmussen public opinion firm asked 1,000 likely voters last week which candidate they trust more when it comes to the economy, and 49 percent answered Romney, while 39 percent said Obama; 12 percent said they were unsure.

Obama’s daily job approval numbers have more closely tracked Americans’ ratings of the economy in 2012, a correlation not always clear in prior years or with previous presidents, Gallup reported. That suggests the linkage “has strengthened . . . to the point that the economy now appears poised to be a critical factor in Obama's approval rating -- and therefore his chances for re-election,” Gallup added.

The president’s team believes there are two universes -- people who have begun to feel more optimistic about their personal economic situations, and those who feel more upbeat about the economy as a whole. Obama is trying to speak to both camps. Where there are indicators that suggest the economy is improving slightly, senior administration officials think the president’s overall standing improves, too.

The senior officials met with reporters shortly before the Senate failed to reach the 60-vote threshold necessary to move forward legislation adding a new “Buffett rule” to the tax code. The measure, named for billionaire businessman Warren Buffett, called for an effective tax rate of 30 percent for the wealthy, to mirror more closely rates paid by many middle-class families.

Obama, in speeches and events, challenged Congress this month to adopt legislation the White House privately understood was doomed. In recent Gallup polling, the Buffett rule proved popular with majorities of Democrats and independents, although Republicans opposed it.

The Senate vote to block the bill was 51-45, largely along party lines. Democrats brought the measure to the floor to put Republicans on record as opposed to higher taxes for those most able to afford rates shouldered by average taxpayers, including many filing returns this week.

The president will move next to items piling up on the congressional calendar, including a surface transportation reauthorization bill that is set to expire in July; reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act; and pending judicial appointments. To keep his focus on the economic contrasts with Romney, Obama will continue touting middle-class “fairness” ingredients rejected by Congress from his 2011 jobs agenda. 

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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