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Obama Pushes For Payroll Tax Cut Extension In New Hampshire Speech

Obama New Hampshire Payroll Tax Cut

JULIE PACE   11/22/11 08:22 PM ET  AP

MANCHESTER, N.H. — President Barack Obama dashed into politically important New Hampshire Tuesday, seeking to steal the spotlight from Republican presidential candidates and challenging GOP lawmakers back in Washington to stand by their anti-tax pledges on one big measure.

He was greeted with a blunt message from Republican contender Mitt Romney, who bought campaign ads telling Obama, "Your policies have failed."

In his first trip to New Hampshire in nearly two years, the president was confronted by a state that has shifted sharply to the right since his victory here in the 2008 election. The state's crucial independent voters sided solidly with Republicans in the 2010 midterms, and recent polls suggest Obama would lose to Romney by 10 percentage points here if the election were held today.

Seeking to boost his appeal with independents in this low-tax state, Obama urged Congress to extend a Social Security payroll tax cut due to expire next month. In effect, he dared Republicans – many of whom have signed anti-tax pledges – to vote against an extension, a move the White House says would lead to a $1,000 tax hike on a family making $50,000 a year.

If lawmakers vote "no, your taxes go up. Yes, you get a tax cut," Obama told the crowd. "Which way do you think Congress should vote?"

"Don't be a Grinch. Don't vote to raise taxes on working Americans during the holidays," he said during his speech at a Manchester high school.

Democrats had hoped to tuck the payroll tax extension, as well as a renewal of jobless benefits, into an agreement from the congressional deficit-reduction supercommittee. But with that option off the table following the committee's collapse Monday, the White House plans to make a full-court press for a separate measure to extend the tax cuts before they expire at the end of the year – and set up Republicans as scapegoats if that doesn't happen.

Much of Obama's stop in Manchester was about trying to gain a foothold for his economic message in New Hampshire to balance the anti-Obama rhetoric from the Republican candidates swarming the state ahead of the Jan. 10 presidential primary. Obama's trip came on the same day that the GOP contenders were gathering in Washington for a foreign policy debate sure to focus on what they see as the president's failings.

Obama came face to face with the frustration of some New Hampshire voters, who are fed up with a local economy that is struggling to grow and increasingly unhappy with the president's leadership.

A group of protesters outside Manchester Central High School carried signs that read "Obama Isn't Working." And the president's speech was interrupted by a handful of people venting the frustrations of the Occupy Wall Street movement that has spread across to a number of cities.

Even some Obama supporters have sensed a shift in the state.

Naomi Preble, 62, backed Obama in the 2008 election, and the independent voter plans to vote for him again. But she said young people in New Hampshire have soured on the president.

"I think they're worried," Preble. "They don't see the strong leader they thought they elected."

Romney used Obama's trip as an opportunity to air his first 2012 television ads in the Granite State, and they were sharply critical of Obama's economic record. He also ran ads in New Hampshire newspapers that said to Obama, "I will be blunt. Your policies have failed."

Obama never mentioned his GOP challengers by name during his two-and-a-half-hour stop in New Hampshire, making only a veiled reference to their constant presence in this swing state.

"The next time you hear one of these folks from the other side coming and talking about raising your taxes, you just remind them that ever since I've gotten into office, I've lowered your taxes, haven't raised them," he said.

While the White House insisted the president's stop was not about politics, the trip had a campaign feel, from the packed high school gymnasium where Obama spoke to the local restaurant where he dropped by to have lunch with a New Hampshire family.

Obama's campaign believes he can re-ignite voters' passion as they see more of him. His surrogates, including Vice President Joe Biden, will also be making frequent trips to New Hampshire.

The key for the campaign will be bringing New Hampshire independent voters back to the Democratic Party before next November's election.

Independents helped Republicans sweep the state's congressional elections and win veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature. It was a dramatic shift for a state many believed had been shifting to the left over the past decade.

Billy Shaheen, a longtime Democratic operative in New Hampshire and the husband of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, said Republicans' huge gains in the state in 2010 served as a wake-up call.

"After the 2010 election, New Hampshire got a taste of what the tea party can do, and it's not happy," he said. "We let our guard down in 2010."

The White House sees a year-end debate over extending payroll tax cuts, as well as renewing jobless benefits, as an opportunity to draw a distinction for voters between the president's priorities and those of Republicans. Economists have warned that letting both programs expire could be harmful to an economy still struggling to recover from recession.

The Republican field is not unanimous on whether to extend the payroll tax cut. Romney has said he's not for raising taxes "anywhere," and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says that given the economic conditions "it's very hard to say no." In Congress, Rep. Michelle Bachmann voted against the payroll tax cut, but Rep. Ron Paul supported it. Businessman Herman Cain and Texas Gov. Rick Perry oppose extending the cut.

Last year's cut in the 6.2 percent payroll tax, which raises money for Social Security, was accomplished with borrowed money. This time around, administration officials say the president may not insist on the cuts being paid for immediately.

The 2 percentage-point cut in the 6.2 percent payroll tax gave 121 million families a tax reduction averaging $934 last year at a total cost of about $120 billion, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Obama also wants to cut the payroll tax by another percentage point for workers and cut the employer share of the tax in half as well for most companies.

___

Associated Press writers Steve Peoples and Holly Ramer contributed to this report. AP writer Cal Woodward contributed from Washington.


The slideshow below shows how Obama's 2012 campaign is shaping up:
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  • Campaign Announcement

    With a <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-VZLvVF1FQ&noredirect=1" target="_hplink">video</a> emailed and texted to supporters, President Barack Obama <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/04/barack-obama-2012-campaign_n_844221.html" target="_hplink">announced</a> he would be running for reelection on April 4, 2011. "We're doing this now because the politics we believe in does not start with expensive TV ads or extravaganzas, but with you -- with people organizing block by block, talking to neighbors, co-workers, and friends. And that kind of campaign takes time to build," the email read.

  • Fundraising

    In his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama raised a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/04/barack-obama-to-run-money_n_844435.html" target="_hplink">staggering $750 million</a>. The president is <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/04/barack-obama-to-run-money_n_844435.html" target="_hplink">promising to hit</a> the billion dollar mark this time around, which would make him the first president in U.S. history to do so. In his 2008 bid for the White House, Obama ran a famously grassroots campaign, securing a record four million individual donors. With a disenchanted base, the grassroots efforts in his 2012 campaign have been less successful; the campaign failed to meet its goal of 20,000 small donors by the end of September 2011, <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/10/obama-grassroots-challenge-fails-to-meet-goal/" target="_hplink">reported ABC</a>. Many of Obama's early supporters have become disheartened with the president, and many are in worse financial shape than they were three years ago. Losing small donors, however, still leaves Obama with the corporate backers he won over in 2008. Of his <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/contrib.php?cid=N00009638" target="_hplink">top ten donors</a>, eight were major corporations and banks, including Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase. Obama has the weight of the presidency behind him this time around. "His 2012 campaign will be a bigger, slicker machine likely to dwarf that of his eventual Republican opponent," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/04/barack-obama-to-run-money_n_844435.html" target="_hplink">Reuters reported</a>. Successful fundraising can also help the Democratic Party win back seats in the House and Senate. From the Associated Press: <blockquote>Obama gave millions from his campaign war chest to Congressional candidates in 2008. Every seat in the House will be up for grabs again in 2012, as well as one-third of the seats in the Senate, and many experts say the battle for Congress -- particularly for the Senate -- could be the real fight.</blockquote> The president has held several fundraisers this fall, reaching out to key voting blocks like African Americans and progressives. In October the president's reelection campaign announced they surpassed 1 million donors since collections began in April. The campaign and Democratic National Committee reported a total of $70 million for the third quarter.

  • Approval Ratings

    President Obama's approval ratings hit a new low at the end of October. A <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/150230/Obama-Job-Approval-Average-Slides-New-Low-11th-Quarter.aspx" target="_hplink">Gallup poll</a> found Obama's approval had fallen to 41 percent, a new low and a big drop from the previous quarter rating of 46.8 percent. But despite voter frustration over high unemployment rates, <a href=" http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/24/obama-approval-rating-likability_n_979076.html." target="_hplink">Obama's likability</a> as a person has kept him afloat in the polls. Americans' approval of the president has risen and fallen over the past year: It spiked after a budget deal with Republicans was reached, after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and of course again after Osama bin Laden was killed. The numbers dipped in August during the debt ceiling debacle. Check out HuffPost Pollster's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/06/jobapproval-obama_n_726319.html" target="_hplink">interactive tool</a> tracking Obama's approval ratings through time.

  • GOP Candidates

    The current pool of candidates in the Republican primary race may be one of the best things President Obama has going for him in his re-election bid. The GOP has been hesitant to rally around any one of the contenders, and a number of high-profile Republicans decided against a run. Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has been a steady frontrunner, but hasn't garnered widespread excitement from members of his party. Instead Republicans urged New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to make a bid for the White House, and many conservatives were hopeful Sarah Palin would join the race. (Both decided not to run.) Romney has picked up key endorsements from Christie and Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran. However a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/13/republican-endorsements_n_1009352.html" target="_hplink">HuffPost analysis</a> shows that the number of GOP endorsements is much lower than is usual at this point in the race, indicating the Republican party is far from a consensus. Attendees at a Republican National Committee (RNC) meeting in May found the field of candidates "uninspiring," <a href="http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/20/gop-leaders-restless-about-2012-candidates-but-ready-to-take-on-obama/" target="_hplink">CNN reported</a>. "I am not seeing lightning striking for any of the candidates at this point," said Nevada Republican Chairman Bob List at the event. "But Republicans are eager to find the right candidate to coalesce around."

  • American Jobs Act

    President Obama announced the <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/09/08/fact-sheet-american-jobs-act" target="_hplink">American Jobs Act </a> in September, a sweeping $447 billion bill to boost the country's sinking economy. The White House says the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/24/obama-jobs-plan_n_978956.html" target="_hplink">bill would create</a> 1.9 million new jobs -- just a fraction of the 15 million unemployed Americans. Republicans and some Democrats oppose Obama's plan to pay for the jobs bill by hiking taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans. Though many aspects of the legislation had been <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/14/obama-jobs-bill-2011-republican-support_n_1011699.html" target="_hplink">previously supported</a> by Republicans in Congress, the bill was blocked in the Senate. Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/16/debbie-wasserman--schultz-failure-economy_n_1013838.html" target="_hplink">accused the Republican Party</a> of purposefully allowing the economy to struggle in order to score political points for the 2012 elections. Obama has vowed to continue to fight to pass individual pieces of the bill, beginning with a provision to protect the jobs of teachers, firefighters and police. The Senate voted down the provision in October.

  • Mobilizing The Base

    As campaign season heats up President Obama has been reaching out to the key voting blocs the helped get him elected in 2008, such as African Americans and liberals. In September the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/25/obama-to-congressional-bl_n_979708.html" target="_hplink">president addressed</a> the Congressional Black Caucus at an annual awards dinner and called on blacks to "put on your marching shoes" to follow him into battle. "I need your help," he said. "Shake it off. Stop complainin'. Stop grumblin'. Stop cryin'. We are going to press on. We have work to do." Though Obama was speaking about the economy and his jobs bill, the undercurrent of the speech was that without African American support he might not secure a second term. Black leaders, as well as progressives generally, have been increasingly critical of Obama for giving away too much in talks with Republicans, and not doing enough to fight black unemployment, which is nearly double the national average, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/25/obama-to-congressional-bl_n_979708.html" target="_hplink">the <em>Associated Press</em> reports</a>. Obama also took a trip to the West Coast to speak to progressive Democrats, who have been growing disenchanted with the president. Hoping to reinvigorate the liberal voting bloc, Obama said during fundraisers up and down the West Coast that the GOP vision of government would "cripple America." The president's rhetoric has shifted from a spirit of compromise, to attacks on conservatives, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/25/obama-gop-cripple-america_n_980219.html" target="_hplink">reports the <em>Associated Press</em></a>.

  • First Term Accomplishments

    A run-down of the president's accomplishments and how the most controversial among them were received. <strong>Health Care Reform:</strong> The Affordable Care Act is arguably Obama's most contentious legislative accomplishment. Most Democrats praise the law for aiming to provide all Americans with access to affordable health care, while the Republican party wishes to repeal the law, saying it ups taxes and government spending, while increasing government control over health care. Some question the constitutionality of an individual mandate. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/01/supreme-court-health-care-law_n_990289.html" target="_hplink">The Supreme Court </a> will be the judge of that. The president faced the most sustained criticism from his base during the health care debate, as he <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/24/leaderless-senate-pushes_n_332844.html" target="_hplink">negotiated away</a> and belittled the public insurance option, and made <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/13/internal-memo-confirms-bi_n_258285.html" target="_hplink">back-room deals</a> with major industry players. <strong>Economic Recovery:</strong> Obama's $789 billion <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/11/stimulus-deal-obama-team_n_165912.html" target="_hplink">economic stimulus package</a> has faced scrutiny from Republicans since passing Congress with little Republican support. However, supporters credit the legislation -- one of the largest in history -- with pulling the economy back from the brink after the 2008 financial collapse and preventing a second Great Depression. Republicans criticized the plan for relying too heavily on spending rather than tax cuts, though a third of the package consisted of the latter. As early as February 2009, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/09/is-stimulus-too-small_n_165076.html" target="_hplink">HuffPost explained </a>why the stimulus was too small and would fall short of its goal. <strong>Withdrawing from Iraq:</strong> Fulfilling a campaign promise to end the war in Iraq, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/21/obama-iraq-troop-withdrawal_n_1024108.html" target="_hplink">Obama announced Oct. 21</a> that he will pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of the year. <strong>DADT Repeal:</strong> Obama repealed the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/20/barack-obama-dont-ask-dont-tell-repeal-statement_n_971662.html" target="_hplink">Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy</a> that forbid gay men and women from serving openly in the U.S. military, a law he called "discriminatory." The repeal was a historic moment for the gay rights movement. Some Republican candidates have promised to reinstate the policy. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/30/us/politics/30ledbetter-web.html" target="_hplink">Fair Pay Act:</a> The first bill Obama signed into law is aimed at achieving equal pay for women. <strong>Stem Cell Research:</strong> Obama overturned the Bush-era ban on funding embryonic stem cell research, offering federal support for scientists researching cures for disease. <strong>New START treaty:</strong> Obama signed a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/03/jon-kyls-decadelong-obses_n_791738.html" target="_hplink">bilateral treaty </a>between the U.S. and Russia that aims to cut the number of nuclear weapons around the world in half. <a href="http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2010/12/president-obama-signs-child-nutrition-act/21903/" target="_hplink"><strong>Child Nutrition Act:</strong></a> Obama signed into law a bill to combat childhood obesity and promote child nutrition in schools. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/04/obama-sign-food-safety-bill_n_804053.html" target="_hplink"><strong>Food Safety Act:</strong></a> The food safety act to help prevent deadly outbreaks of foodborne illness was the first major overhaul of America's food safety system since the 1930s. <strong>Wall Street Reform:</strong> Obama's financial industry reform bill left the major banks in tact, but promised to create a mechanism whereby failing institutions would be seized and unwound by federal regulators. That element of the law has yet to be tested. The signature achievement of the bill was the creation of the Consumer Financial Product Bureau, an agency crafted by consumer advocate and now-Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, which was fought energetically by Wall Street, the GOP and powerful Democrats. <strong>Supreme Court Justices:</strong> Obama appointed two justices to the United States Supreme Court: Justice Sonya Sotomayor in 2009, the first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court, and Justice Elena Kagan in 2010.

  • Killing Osama bin Laden And Ending The War On Terror

    In May 2011 President Obama announced that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/01/osama-bin-laden-dead-killed_n_856091.html" target="_hplink">Osama Bin Laden had been killed</a> by a U.S. operation launched in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The president said U.S. intelligence operatives received a tip of bin Laden's hideout and took action. "Justice has been done," Obama said <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNYmK19-d0U" target="_hplink">from the White House</a>. Upon taking office Obama distanced himself from the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/10/obamas-war-on-terror-awlaki_n_1004161.html" target="_hplink">"War on Terror"</a> he inherited from his predecessor George W. Bush. He ordered an end to the phrase, instead calling it a "Global Contingency Operation." Despite the name change, the assault on civil liberties that was central to Bush's "War on Terror" continues under President Obama's "operation." He pledged to bring the Iraq war to an end, and has withdrawn roughly 120,000 troops since taking office. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/21/obama-iraq-troop-withdrawal_n_1024108.html" target="_hplink">Obama announced</a> Oct. 21 that he will pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of the year, fulfilling a long-held campaign promise.

  • Budget Fights With Republicans

    The 2009 stimulus negotiations, in which Republicans got several hundred billion dollars worth of tax cuts without agreeing to vote for the bill, were a sign of things to come. Negotiations over the 2011 budget reached a climax in April, with a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/14/budget-deal-passes-house-_n_849334.html" target="_hplink">showdown</a> between Republicans and Democrats that threatened to shut down the federal government if the two parties could not reach a deal. At the eleventh hour, Congress pushed through a deal that was hailed as a <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0411/52864.html" target="_hplink">victory for Republicans</a>, because of the spending cuts Democrats agreed to. Democrats strongly opposed any <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/09/budget-battle-gop-wins-round-one_n_847101.html" target="_hplink">cuts to spending</a>. Republicans initially asked for $61 billion in cuts. Democrats later refused to go over $33 billion. The deal settled on $38.5 billion in cuts. Republicans had also tried to force social issues as part of the deal, hoping to defund Planned Parenthood and to stop government regulations on greenhouse gases, without success. However these and deeper cuts to spending are likely to be issues in the next budget fight. Months later Democrats and Republicans again went head to head over the <a href="http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/06/whats-happening-debt-ceiling-explained" target="_hplink">raising the debt ceiling</a>. The U.S. government reached its borrowing limit - $14.3 trillion - and risked defaulting on payments if they didn't if the debt limit wasn't raised. Republicans refused to raise the limit without drastic cuts, which Democrats chastised political grandstanding that cause the country to default. Again a last-minute deal was struck in which Republicans agreed to raise the debt ceiling enough to keep borrowing through 2013 in exchange for spending cuts. A super-committee was created to come up with a plan to trim the federal budget by an additional $2.4 trillion. In September the U.S. narrowly averted a government shutdown once more over <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20112238-503544.html" target="_hplink">negotiations on a spending bill</a>. Republicans wanted to offset funding for disaster relief with cuts; Democrats refused. In the end Republicans caved on the cuts, but got Democrats to agree to give less cash to FEMA than they had wanted. The budget fight isn't over yet. In November Congress will have to figure out the rest of the 2012 federal budget. At that point the super committee created to save 1.2 trillion from the budget will reveal its plan.

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Filed by Luke Johnson  |