The president, remarkably so, even cried foul at bill signing. He sounded defeated and maintained having been held “hostage” by the Republicans. In order not to raise taxes on struggling middle America, he was forced into a compromise extending tax breaks to “wealthy” Americans.
 
Don’t be fooled. This is a victory for him.  The White House successfully outmaneuvered the GOP and assured that the president’s likely reelection bid will turn into a referendum on his liberal tax policy positions – an electoral choice for or against tax cuts for those who they define as the rich.
 
When taken within the framework of both economic recovery and deficit spending, a 2012 debate on the yet-again-to-expire tax cuts will allow the president to achieve a campaign strategy coup d’état – a holy grail of any race for political office: divide and conquer your opposition and, at the same time, energize your base.
 
Deficit-conscious conservatives and Tea Party activists are divided today on the recent tax cut deal. While nearly all Republicans and independents support low taxes, they also see deficit spending and a growing debt as pivotal in their support for any tax cut deal. And the deficit and debt are  bound to be an issue in the next election, regardless of how strong or weak the economic recovery and job growth are going to be.
 
Reining in the deficit, as a policy goal and priority, is going to play into the president’s hands.  Forget that the deficit is a monster he created in the first place.  It will be an issue he can capitalize on because the many who turned out to vote this past November care.
 
By opposing a further extension in 2012, particularly one that would exacerbate  government deficit – and making that opposition the centerpiece of his campaign – Obama will be able to divide his opposition by driving a wedge right down the middle of the Tea Party movement and the more fiscally conservative, deficit-conscious Republicans.  These groups are split today. They will be split in two years.
 
In the process, Obama can reclaim his now-alienated base.
 
Liberal Democratic voters are not happy with the president over his recent tax deal compromise.  And with much of their liberal agenda now passed – health care, stimulus,  repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ – they are not excited looking down the road at 2012. Furthermore, a Republican-controlled House of representatives will put the breaks on any remaining liberal policies left in Obama’s heart and will force his administration to take a middle of the road legislative approach – one that is likely to keep liberals tuned out.  
 
But the “no tax cut for the rich” mantra is golden. It gives the president hope to reclaim his base.  It is what he needs to re-energize the liberals in his party and ensure voter turn out.
 
This is Obama’s gimmick: I am giving you the tax cut extension. But only for two years. We’ll then take this up again.
 
This is the GOP’s gamble. Hope and pray that the economy and government’s revenues grow fast enough to significantly reverse the deficit spending trajectory.
 
Regardless GOP, don’t butcher yourself politically during the presidential primary. Obama will be watching you. And he will gladly lend a helping hand.


Nino Saviano is president of Savi Political Consulting.