Jonathan Chait

The Democrats' Strategy Unfolds

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Democrats are attacking House Republicans for slashing funds for research, education and science:

In the first major media salvo of its effort to reclaim the House in 2012, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is launching an advertising campaign against 19 targeted Republican incumbents.

The radio ads, web ads, phone calls and e-mails are aimed squarely at Republicans in mostly Democratic-leaning districts. The message is that these members want to cut spending at a time when it could lead to further job losses.

"But Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle supports a plan in Congress that would cut education by 40 percent," says one radio ad. "And her plan would cut science and technology research by 40 percent, too. Research and development is how we get the new products that create new jobs."

In 1995-1996, President Clinton won the budget showdown by emphasizing what the White House called "M2E2" -- Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment, all of which came under GOP budget cuts. Obama's message is similar but focused on programs that can be sold (fairly persuasively, in my view) as vital to the economic recovery. The State of the Union address was not really a Kennedy-esque vision for the future but a platform to lay the groundwork for the budget fight. I'm sure Obama understands perfectly well that he won't get Republicans to agree on new investments in science, education and infrastructure, but when they slash those programs, he'll have a message in place to attack them.

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