As Republican presidential candidates prepared to debate economic policy in New Hampshire tonight, President Barack Obama and his allies went on the offensive, maintaining the president’s would-be challengers don’t have a plan to revive the economy.
Republicans want to “basically build a bridge back to the recession,” White House senior adviser David Plouffe said this morning on NBC’s “Today” program. Their policy prescriptions would “let Wall Street write their own rules, cut taxes for the wealthiest, let polluters have their way with our air and water.”
“That’s not going to grow jobs now or in the long term,” he said.
Plouffe’s appearance on the show was one of several by administration officials and party leaders in what amounts to a coordinated effort by the president’s team to seize the initiative before eight Republican presidential contenders discuss economic issues in a debate sponsored by Bloomberg LP and The Washington Post tonight in Hanover, New Hampshire.
“It’s not atypical of a White House to do this,” said Tom Rath, a former New Hampshire attorney general who is backing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, one of the front-runners in the Republican contest. “They don’t have a race on their side, except against themselves.”
Criticism From Romney
Romney leads polls in New Hampshire, which will hold the first primary early next year, and he criticized Obama’s handling of the economy as he campaigned in the state yesterday. At a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Milford, he said Obama’s stewardship has created a “‘Where’s Waldo?’ economy,” referring to the children’s books in which the challenge is to hunt for a small, hard-to-find man on a crowded page. In Romney’s analogy, the jobs are Waldo.
He also accused Obama of fostering “class warfare” that Romney said demonized groups of people unfairly. “I’ve been really disappointed -- and, in some respects, a little frightened -- by the president’s rhetoric -- this class warfare, trying to find someone to blame,” Romney said.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a U.S. representative from Florida, also is in New Hampshire today echoing the theme laid out by Plouffe.
The Republican presidential candidates have offered no solutions “other than the ones that already got us into the economic crisis in the first place,” she said on MSNBC.
The White House offensive also preceded a test vote tonight in the Senate on the president’s $447 billion plan to stimulate hiring through a combination of tax cuts and spending. The nation’s jobless rate was 9.1 percent in September, the sixth consecutive month it has been at 9 percent or higher.
With the vote tally still taking place, Senate opponents of the president’s proposal had enough votes to block debate, effectively shelving the legislation. It would have faced likely defeat in the House, where Republicans have a majority and have expressed opposition to tax increases in the plan.
Obama earlier in the day called it “a moment of truth” in the Senate. “Today’s the day when every American will find out where their senators stand on this jobs bill,” Obama said today in remarks at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 5 Training Center in Pittsburgh.
The president and his advisers said they expect the legislation will be broken up into narrower measures that can draw at least some Republican votes, such as the tax cuts.
Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, sent an e-mail to supporters saying Republicans will block the proposal because they “only have a political plan” instead of a plan for the economy.
“They think that the more folks see Washington taking no action to create jobs, the better their chances in the next election,” Messina’s e-mail said.
According to a Bloomberg-Washington Post poll, more than two-thirds of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, say wealthier people should pay more in taxes to bring down the budget deficit, and even larger numbers say Medicare and Social Security benefits should be left alone.
More than eight of 10 Americans say the middle class will have to make financial sacrifices to cut the deficit even as the public just as strongly opposes higher taxes for middle-income families, according to the poll, conducted Oct. 6-9.
Obama traveled to Florida tonight for back-to-back fundraisers in the Orlando area, raising money jointly for his re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
The first event was for about 450 donors at a downtown hotel with ticket prices ranging from $25 for students up to $35,800. The other fundraiser was for about 300 guests at the home of lawyer John Morgan and featured professional sports figures including NBA stars Patrick Ewing and Grant Hill.
In between, the president stopped to have drinks with unemployed construction workers and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.
“You guys are what this country’s all about,” Obama told the three men and one woman seated with him and Dyer at a table.
Josh Earnest, an administration spokesman, said Obama wasn’t planning to watch the Republican debate and probably will tune into the American League playoff game between the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers.