WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama sought on Monday to gain the political advantage in a fight over the U.S. debt limit, casting himself as a champion of the middle class and Republicans as defenders of corporations and the wealthy.
Instead of addressing investors and credit ratings agencies anxious about the deadlock, Obama used his 15-minute speech to send a message directly to U.S. voters, with an eye toward his 2012 re-election campaign.
Here are the main themes of his speech:
* As he has done since the negotiations over the debt limit began, Obama sought to portray himself as the adult in the room. He mentioned the word “compromise” several times and called for a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction that includes both spending cuts and tax revenue increases.
* He painted Republicans in the House of Representatives, by contrast, as stubborn and insistent on adhering to “rigid ideologies” and suggested their approach was the reason the country faced the risk of a first-ever debt default.
* Aiming to appeal, in particular, to independent voters, invoking past Republican presidents, including Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
* After being sidelined by lawmakers over the weekend when House Speaker John Boehner walked out on deficit reduction talks, Obama also looked to present an image of leadership, telling Congress it must come up with a compromise on the debt limit within a few days. But he did not give a specific deadline.