Mr. Middle Class

You’d think it would be downright ludicrous—late-night comedy material—for Barack Obama, the elegant and eloquent Man from Harvard Law, to pitch himself as any kind of regular Joe. But he managed it pretty well in 2008. And he was at it again last Friday, on a lawn in Maumee, Ohio, flanked by hay bales and an American flag, talking to a bunch of middle-American types in a loose-fitting, short-sleeved checked shirt he may have last worn while bowling in Pennsylvania—and sounding pretty darn regular, inspiring choruses of that’s rights and amens. He talked about his single mom, who “raised me and my sister right,” about his grandparents’ service in World War II, about his HoJo’s vacations as a kid. The message: I’m middle class to my bones, y’all, believe it or not. Along the way, he previewed today’s call for extending the Bush tax cuts, which expire at the end of the year, for income under $250,000—another component of the campaign’s renewed emphasis on economic fairness and, you know, middle class, middle class, middle class. “Unlike my opponent,” he told Maumee, “I’ll ask the wealthiest Americans who got the biggest tax cuts over the past decade to do a little more.” Amen!

Meanwhile, Mitt was on that other vacation—and heading toward the Hamptons to fundraise with the Koch brothers. (See Daily Meme, below.) The optics, especially considering Friday’s distressing jobs report, were pretty darn good on the Democratic side. And today’s call for extending tax cuts “to the middle class” put Romney in quite a bind—as the leader of the party that refuses to cut taxes for “regular people” unless they’re also cut for the wealthiest 2 percent. In just the last few days, we’ve gotten pretty convincing answers to the question on every pundit’s lips: With the economy where it is, and Obama’s approval ratings where they are, how in the heck is he still leading—however slimly—in the polls? It’s partly because he can unleash a pseudo-populist stemwinder in Maumee, Ohio, that is convincing—and his opponent simply cannot. It’s also because, at a time when awareness of economic inequity is running unusually high, running an unrepentant plutocrat for president might not have been the Republican Party’s brightest idea ever. And Obama is hell-bent on exploiting that mistake for all it’s worth. Even if he has to wear that shirt.

So They Say

"For these white liberals to believe they can have this condescending manner toward black conservatives, that we need to have approval from our, I guess, 'masters,' for us to be able to speak—see, that’s where the true racism really lies, Governor, is with the white liberals who don’t want to see someone such as myself that broke away from their dependency class and is out here and able to possibly contend against them with the policies that they are promoting that is destroying the black community. I know I’m their number one target and it just emboldens me to speak out even stronger."

—Congressman Allen West, Florida Republican, holding forth on Huckabee

Daily Meme: He's Big in the Hamptons

  • Mitt Romney had fun collecting big checks in the Hamptons this weekend.
  • Steve Benen sums up the event: "Imagine if Thurston Howell III and C. Montgomery Burns were real people. Then imagine they were attending a fundraiser for Mitt Romney in the Hamptons...It turns out, you don't actually have to imagine any of this, because yesterday, it actually happened."
  • Romney gets it, the Hamptonites say—unlike Obama and those common Democrats. One woman said, "But my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies— everybody who's got the right to vote—they don't understand what's going on. I just think if you're lower income— one, you're not as educated, two, they don't understand how it works, they don't understand how the systems work, they don't understand the impact."
  • "Maybe there'd be more ‘commoners’ at Romney events if they were $7.50 or $75 per person, but $75,000 is just a bit beyond the reach of most Americans."
  • Another woman made her appearance yelling, “Is there a V.I.P. entrance? We are V.I.P.", from her Range Rover.
  • As Matt Yglesias points out, if the richest are in charge of running the economy … they aren't doing too swell a job right now.
  • Protesters did try to make some noise, even hiring a local pilot to fly a banner that read, “Romney has a Koch problem,” over Revlon chair Ronald O. Perelman’s estate.
  • A less successful group of protesters tried to crash the party and ended upcrashing into a police boat.
  • But in the end, Mitt's just "a plain-talking guy," said former Lehman Brothers head Peter Cohen, cigar in hand.
  • And then Romney headed from the Hamptons straight to … Aspen.

What We're Writing

What We're Reading

Poll of the Day

According to Gallup/USA Today, Obama holds a narrow edge in 12 “battleground” states—two points—while he leads Romney by four percent in the other 38.

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