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Reflections on Obama’s Press Corps Briefing

President Obama Monday paid his first visit to the White House press corps in over two months. The President took questions from three reporters, addressed Medicare, Todd Akin, the perception of negativity surrounding his campaign, Mitt Romney’s taxes, the fiscal cliff and Syria. His remarks, though brief and calculated, reveal both his messaging strategy heading into September and the policy strategies he will pursue to bolster his election chances. Let’s break down a transcript of the President’s remarks taken from the official White House website.

Remarks by the President to the White House Press Corps August 20, 2012 – 1:27PM

The President on Medicare: Today, HHS announced that thanks to the health care law that we passed, nearly 5.4 million seniors with Medicare have saved over $4.1 billion on prescription drugs. 

That Medicare is Obama’s unprompted, top-line message suggests Republican messaging on Obamacare’s $716 billion cut to Medicare has Team Obama fretting. They perceive, rightly, that elderly voters, especially in swing-states like Florida, find Paul Ryan endearing and charming. As a general rule, every time Paul Ryan hugs his mom on stage, Obama loses 1,000 retiree votes in the Sunshine State.

That his health care law will redistributes $716 billion from Medicare to fund Obamacare is a fact. Rather than debate the issue frankly, Team Obama has decided to rely on the familiar Democratic model: Look how much your government loves you! Their message: Thanks to Obamacare, millions of seniors have gotten billions of dollars of free preventative care, thanks to Obamacare.

Significantly, the above statement indicates that prescription drug coverage for seniors will feature strongly in the Democrats messaging. Expect the so-called Medicaid “Donut-Hole” to play a large role in the debate as Obama increasingly vies for elderly voters.

The President on Todd Akin:  So what I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women. 

Obama takes advantage of the Akin gaffe to echo a theme from earlier this year: the War on Woman. Note the implicit accusation of misogyny in health care plans that allow politicians – “a majority of whom are men” – to make decisions on behalf of women. Conservatives should expect more messaging of this kind, as Obama seeks to peel female voters away from what could be the handsomest presidential ticket in U.S. history.

As a matter of strategy, conservatives should remind voters that they don’t want any politicians – male, female, intersex or transgender – making health care decisions on our behalf. Moreover, it is President Obama and liberal Democrats in Congress who have championed a health care law that does just that: takes decisions and choices away from the American people. Or rather, in Obama’s parlance, the underlying notion, the sub-text, if you will, of Obamacare is that no man or woman is capable of making health care decisions better than the men and women of Government.

The President on Campaign Negativity: Nobody accused Mr. Romney of being a felon.

Okay, Mr. Obama, but what about your deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, who, at the height of the Bainer attacks this summer, said, “Either Mitt Romney, through his own words and his own signature, was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony.” Indeed, it appears that somebody did accuse Mitt Romney of lying and that somebody appears to be a senior campaign aid to Obama. The question is whether the American people still trust Barack Obama.

The President on Welfare Work Requirements: Now, in contrast, you’ve got Governor Romney creating as a centerpiece of his campaign this notion that we’re taking the work requirement out of welfare, which every single person here who’s looked at it says is patently false…  Everybody who has looked at this says what Governor Romney is saying is absolutely wrong. 

Unfortunately for the President it is not the case that “every single person” and “everybody” who has seen Mitt Romney’s ads agree that it is “patently false” and “absolutely wrong.” Quite the contrary. That description might apply to the Romney-Killed-My-Wife Ad run by Obama’s super PAC, an ad even he now denounces. The bottom line is that Obama by fiat yanked Clinton-installed work requirements from certain welfare programs, meaning some individuals will no longer have to satisfy work requirements in order to receive checks.

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