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Has Obama got his Mojo back ?

Mark Mardell | 02:21 UK time, Monday, 13 September 2010

Obama will never again recover the glory days of his presidential campaign and the warm after glow of victory. But even glimpses of the old magic have been few and far between in the last year. But there were a couple of flashes of something special last week.

His Labor Day speech and Ohio pitch laced his economic narrative with emotion. His speech marking 9/11 was both serious and passionate. All three were a cut above his often pedestrian professorial addresses, which read pretty well, but appeal to logic, not voters.

President Barack Obama at Labor Day speech in Milwaukee

More importantly, the economic speeches and his news conference on Friday displayed some political tactics. He obviously doesn't believe his opponents' main charge, that he's losing support because he's governed too much as a liberal, a left-winger. He was pretty forthright about his beliefs that government should not only stimulate a flagging economy, but invest for America's future. He was clear that his concern was for "the middle classes" (which in America means something more like "hard-working classes" than what we mean in Britain by middle class) not for the rich. He knows there is an "enthusiasm gap" and he is trying to get the Democrats to feel better about themselves.

The story he set out was a clear one. When he came into office there was a huge economic mess, left by the Republicans and their failed policies. Because of his decisions things were getting better, even if far too slowly. But the choice was not between him and a perfect recovery, but between Democrats and the same old Republican policies that caused the problem in the first place. He called on Republicans not to hold the country to ransom by demanding the continuation of Bush's tax cuts for the better-off as a price for voting for middle-class tax cuts.

The Republicans have spotted this last trap, and are preparing to leap over it. The House Republican leader has said he would vote for the wider tax cuts, without the continuation of the one for people on more than $250,000. But his party can't avoid the trap altogether. When it springs shut it will make Obama look as though he is pushing the Republicans into some of sort of bipartisanship while not budging himself. Again, perhaps not appealing to independents, but natural Democrats should cheer.

It is far too soon to say whether Obama's fightback will have any impact on the dismal predictions about his party's fortunes, but he has lowered himself to engage in political tactics and descended from the seminar room with his boxing gloves on. That in itself is a rare enough sight, to give some pause.


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