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“Less Rancor and More Results”: Dem Strategist Sets High Bar for Obama’s Deficit Speech

Aaron Task
Editor in Chief
Fin - Daily Ticker - US

Ahead of his deficit speech Wednesday afternoon, the White House says President Obama will "borrow from" his own deficit reduction panel, which proposed to cut about $4 trillion from the national deficit by 2020.

The President's goal today is to "de-partisanize" the debate, says Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf. "He needs to say 'we all agree the deficit needs to be cut. But we disagree on how to do it. Here's my plan. I hope we can reach an agreement.'"

By toning down the rhetoric, the President can give "exactly what the American public is looking for — a bipartisan kind of approach, with less rancor and more results," Sheinkopf says.

Of course, the devil will be in the details of Obama's plan and finding bipartisan support for a deficit-reduction deal is likely to be very difficult. Several Republicans have already declared their opposition to any plan that includes higher taxes, as the Simpson-Bowles plan recommends. Rep. Paul Ryan's plan, for example, would cut about $5.8 trillion from the deficit largely by cutting federal spending back to 2008 levels and instituting a major overhaul of Medicare.

So great is the divide in Washington these days it now appears that the "bipartisan" deal on the 2011 budget, which averted a shutdown last week, may be in jeopardy. As details of the plan have emerged, it's clear the actual spending cuts are far less than the $38 billion headline figure: "In several cases, what look like large reductions are actually accounting gimmicks," The Washington Post reports.

The House is scheduled to vote on the 2011 budget deal Thursday and several Republicans have said they will vote against it, reopening the possibility of a shutdown.

"Sane people would not think there's a possibility [of a shutdown] because no one would benefit, particularly the Republicans," says Sheinkopf, who was an adviser to President Clinton during the shutdowns of 1995-96. "If they do [shut down the government], it only helps the President get reelected…he's holding the cards, they're not." (For another point of view see: Obama "Caved": Why Grover Norquist Thinks the GOP Will Keep Winning)

Aaron Task is the host of The Daily Ticker. You can follow him on Twitter at @atask or email him at altask@yahoo.com