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Tue, Feb. 18

Editorial: Obama has little to lose with fiscal cliff

When President Obama was running for re-election, he sought to assure voters weary of Washington's bickering that things would be better if he won a second term. "I believe that if we're successful in this election - when we're successful in this election - that the fever may break."

The only thing that has gotten better is his numbers.

Taxes were a centerpiece of the presidential campaign, with Obama running on a pledge to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and return their rates to where they were in the 1990s, when the economy was thriving, according to the Associated Press.

Exit polls showed that 60 percent of voters supported that position, an even higher percentage than backed Obama's re-election.

A new poll suggests a majority of Americans would blame Republicans if the government goes over the fiscal cliff. Just 27 percent of those surveyed said they would blame Obama, according to the Washington Post-Pew Research Center Poll.

It comes as no surprise, then, the White House is signaling Obama is willing to let the country go over the "fiscal cliff," a hard-line negotiating strategy aimed at winning concessions from Republicans on taxes, the AP reported Thursday. If Washington really does fail to avert the looming series of tax hikes and spending cuts, the White House will portray Republicans as the culprits for insisting on protecting tax cuts for the wealthy, an effort the administration is laying the groundwork for now.

Plain and simple: It is all politics. Obama has said before that the debt-saddled country can't afford to continue with the Bush-era tax cuts. Yes, he has said that before - only to back down in the final stages of negotiations.

But this time around, the president and his team believe they hold the political leverage.

It is called political capital. Think of it like a checking account; the account-holder may make withdrawals at any time. Usually the account's balance is finite; Obama's account is brimming.

Yes, it is politics as usual.

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