Political Posturing in Obama’s New Hampshire Trip

Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo

President Obama’s trip to the 2012 battleground of New Hampshire today may be an “official” excursion on the taxpayers’ dime, but the political posturing is unmistakable.

Heading to a state where the official motto is “live free or die” to talk taxes just hours after the super-failure of the supercommittee to reach consensus on the same topic, Obama will try to reclaim control of the narrative, appealing to the state’s independent-minded voters who are known to favor pragmatism and compromise.

As ABC News’ Mary Bruce notes, Obama will make a pitch for extending and expanding a soon-to-expire payroll tax cut for 160 million workers and imposing new payroll tax cuts for some small business employers.

On the surface, cutting taxes, or at least avoiding an increase for millions of Americans, seems like it would garner bipartisan — especially Republican — support. And that’s precisely the point, the White House says it hopes to make.

“If Congress fails to act to extend the current payroll tax cut, a typical family making $50,000 per year would see their taxes rise by $1,000 at the beginning of next year, at a time when families are struggling to make ends meet,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday.

But some Republicans — including GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney, who leads Obama by as many as 10 points in a recent match-up in the Granite State — have been cool to the idea. Which is a fact Democrats and the Obama re-election campaign are eager to point out.

When asked about the payroll tax cut extension during the Bloomberg debate in Hanover, N.H. last month, Romney said a payroll tax cut extension wouldn’t help create jobs or improve the economy.

“If you give a temporary change to the payroll tax, and you say ‘we’re going to extend this for a year or two,’ employers do not hire people for a year or two,” Romney said.

“I don’t like temporary little Band-Aids,” he added. “I want to fundamentally restructure America’s foundation economically.”

The line has become fodder for Democratic attacks.

Still, Romney holds a 15-point lead over Obama among independents in New Hampshire, according to a recent Bloomberg poll conducted Nov. 10-11. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points.

And with his first TV ad of the cycle attacking Obama airing across New Hampshire today, Romney is gunning to solidify that lead by reminding voters of their lingering economic woes.

Meanwhile, Team Obama is banking on the expectation that Romney’s “Band-Aid” position will backfire, especially in a state that generally eschews taxes on the middle class — New Hampshire lacks a general sales tax and individual income tax.

The same Bloomberg poll found Obama’s plan to pay for his payroll tax cut — asking wealthier Americans to pay more — draws a plurality of support among Granite State voters.