Last summer, Democrats reached a low point as the debt limit debacle was wrapping up. Not only did they succumb to the GOP’s debt-reduction ransom in order to prevent an economic calamity, they failed to extract a penny in new tax revenues, and fissures were deepening between congressional leadership and the White House after President Obama offered to chop Medicare and Social Security. Republicans were firmly in control.
Fast-forward to today: Democrats are united in message and policy behind a narrative that holds Republicans accountable for the decline of the middle class, blaming them for rubber-stamping the agenda of a moneyed elite that is abusing the levers of power to rig the game in their favor. And Mitt Romney is their poster child for that phenomenon.
“It’s a perfect storm — the president’s making that narrative and then he’s running against a guy who exemplifies the top 1 percent, and who people don’t like,” said a Democratic leadership aide, who spoke to TPM on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. “So everything has sort of contributed to this overall backdrop. … It’s all of a piece.”
In recent weeks, Senate Democrats have united to pass a bill that ends the Bush-era tax cuts on incomes above $250,000. Along with that, they have — cohesively with the Obama campaign — used every tool at their disposal to pound Romney on his secretive tax returns and policy agenda, relentlessly painting him as a corporate predator who may not have even paid income taxes for a decade.
Democratic operatives chalk up their new posture to a number of factors: an altered political environment more focused on income inequality, message discipline instilled by Obama’s aides, a big victory on the payroll tax cut to start off the year and a growing fear of the policies a Republican victory on Election Day would mean.
“There’s nothing like an election to help focus peoples’ attention,” said Jim Manley, a strategist and former longtime senior aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). “They suddenly realize what’s at stake.”
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