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Obama’s Recast Agenda Faces Doubters

David Greedy/Getty Images
President Barack Obama addresses supporters Wednesday at the Mississippi Valley Fairground in Davenport, Iowa. Obama touted his plans for the next four years to a crowd of 3,500 supporters on his first stop of a two-day campaign marathon.

President Barack Obama’s problem hasn’t been that he doesn’t have a second-term agenda, as challenger Mitt Romney has claimed. The difficulty for Obama has been in explaining how he could be more successful in a second term after two years of gridlock. 

And until recently, the president hadn’t boiled down his sprawling array of policy proposals to a few top priorities.

Romney and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) have been hammering Obama for weeks now on the lack of a clear second-term agenda, something that the Obama camp has repeatedly dismissed.

And the Obama campaign is certainly correct that the president has numerous plans and proposals. But most of them have gone straight into Congress’ circular file in the past two years: his budgets, his deficit reduction plan, his American Jobs Act, his jobs “to-do” list, the DREAM Act proposal to give illegal immigrant children a pathway to citizenship, the Buffett Rule plan to require millionaires to pay a minimum tax rate, and on and on.

This week, the Obama team repackaged many of those plans into a boiled-down “Plan for Jobs” brochure outlining his second-term agenda. And separately Obama outlined his agenda in an interview that was originally off the record with the Des Moines Register, where he gave perhaps his frankest answers to date about what he thinks he can get done and why. 

He predicted Congress would finally agree to a “grand bargain” on the budget including new tax revenue on the wealthy and achieve a breakthrough on immigration reform next year if he’s re-elected — but his best-laid plans would require a new level of cooperation not present in the current Congress. With the balance of power likely to remain the same — with Republicans in control of the House and Democrats steering the Senate — something will have to give.

Obama acknowledged the grand bargain wouldn’t be easy. 

“It will probably be messy,” he told the Register. “It won’t be pleasant. But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I’ve been offering to the Republicans for a very long time.” 

On immigration, Obama predicted the logjam would finally break because it’s in the Republican Party’s long-term interests to cut a deal.

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