Centrist Dems backing away from Obama's class-warfare strategy?

The White House has had to deal with the embarrassment of launching a jobs initiative that was intended to paint Republicans as obstructionists — only to discover that Democrats won’t pass it, either, at least not in its current form.  It now looks like Barack Obama and his team didn’t do their homework on their plan to push higher taxes for the wealthy.  Both TPM and Politico report that “centrist” Democrats in the Senate have begun to distance themselves from Obama’s plan:

President Obama’s deficit-reduction plan–complete with tax increases on the wealthiest Americans–won high marks from his liberal base encouraged to see Obama back in fighting mode, but the plan is set to hit a brick wall in Congress — even in the Democratically controlled Senate and the bipartisan super committee.

Moderate Senate Democrats are signaling strong resistance to tax increases in the President’s deficit-reduction plan, and the early disapproval within his own party will no doubt give Republicans on the deficit super committee plenty of cover to block any and all revenue-raising aspects of Obama’s plan.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) told reporters Monday night that he’s put off by all the talk about increasing taxes when he believes the primary and only goal of the deficit super committee should be finding cuts to hack away at the deficit.

“Tax increases have to come second to cutting,” he said. “I was just home over the weekend and that’s what [my constituents] we’re all talking about.”

TPM thinks that some of them can be wooed back into the fold, but that will be a tall order with a tough election coming up next year.  Red-state Democrats like Ben Nelson already will have big trouble with Obama at the top of the ticket and ObamaCare on their records.  If they have to add a huge tax hike on top of that, there may not be a safe seat among the 23 Democrats have to defend in 2012.  Politico also thinks some may “come around,” but their initial reaction says that Obama may be standing all alone on this proposal:

Liberals on Monday cheered President Barack Obama’s plan to hike taxes on the wealthy to cut the deficit. But the response from Democrats on the front lines of 2012 election battles? Silence. Or, at best, tepid enthusiasm.

Centrist Democrats, a dwindling breed on Capitol Hill, were quickly faced with another rough choice once Obama went public with his plans: Reject their president or back what Republicans are already calling the largest tax increase in the nation’s history.

One endangered Democrat will seek distance from Obama … literally:

The Missouri Republican Party called on Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, a top GOP target in 2012, to state whether she’d embrace Obama’s plan and questioned whether she’ll welcome the president during a visit to St. Louis on Oct. 4.

McCaskill “is still reviewing this proposal,” said an aide, and she’ll be in Washington “voting and working” on the day of Obama’s visit.

It’s not just the centrists, either.  Chuck Schumer, a reliably liberal voice in the Senate, also backed away from Obama’s tax-hike proposal last night, but more for NIMBY reasons than economic common sense:

Kramer asked our area politicians how they felt. Senators Charles Schumer of New York, Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey all support the millionaire’s tax.

Menendez, Lautenberg and Kirsten Gillibrand support eliminating some or all of the Bush tax cuts. Schumer said the $250,000 limit is unacceptable since it will hit the metropolitan area disproportionately because of the high cost of living here.

“$250,000 makes you really rich in Mississippi but it doesn’t make you rich at all in New York and there ought to be some kind of scale based on the cost of living on how much you pay,” Schumer said.

Actually, no.  There should be a sense of cost of living in state policies that ease the kind of distortion one sees in New York City, but income taxes shouldn’t be indexed to cost-of-living indicators at all.  If the $250K limit doesn’t work for Schumer’s constituents, then he should seek to change it or oppose the bill, but not tell Mississippians that those earning the same amount of taxable income as Schumer’s constituents should pay a higher federal income tax rate than New Yorkers.  Schumer’s position is hypocritical on its face, and his suggested solution would almost certainly violate Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.

If the fallout from Obama’s deficit proposal sounds similar to the fallout from his jobs bill, it’s because the White House failed to do the kind of political grunt work necessary up front to develop a united front.  The West Wing is winging it, and in their haste to make Republicans look like extremists, they have instead exposed themselves as significantly out of touch with the American people — and their own party as well.