The president's so-called "Buffett Rule" won a majority of votes in the Senate Monday, but was blocked by a Republican filibuster.
For Democrats, though, the point was never to pass the rule, which would have required that those earning over $1 million a year pay at least 30 percent in taxes. It was to use the Buffett Rule to paint the GOP, and its all-but-certain presidential nominee, as tools of the rich.
“It could be called the Buffett Rule, it could be called the Romney Rule,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat. “He isn’t going to want to have this inequity remain when he is an example of it.”
But Romney didn’t sound too troubled by the inequity Monday. Noting a study that found the Buffett Rule would pay for only 11 hours of government, he called it “not exactly a grand idea.”
On Morning Joe Tuesday, the gang mulled whether Team Obama’s effort to use the Buffett Rule to remind voters of Romney’s vast wealth – and to portray him as indifferent to the plight of working Americans -- will succeed.
“Obama will continue to paint this guy: 'That’s the rich guy, that’s the guy that’s unfair,'” said Donnie Deutsch, the founder of ad agency Deutsch Inc.
In response, Joe Scarborough said it won’t work. “I believe, and most people where I’m from believe, that you can still succeed in America, and get rich in America, even if you’re working class,” he said. “That sort of class resentment and envy, it never played out in our household even when my dad was unemployed. And I’ve gotta say, it still doesn’t play out in trailer parks across America.”
“Democrats who think they’re going to win this year on class resentment, please do it,” Scarborough added. “You’re going to lose the election if you use that.”
Deutsch countered that Team Obama’s message isn’t about class resentment, it’s about “fairness.”
When Scarborough argued that Americans don’t see anything wrong with being rich, Deutsch said the issue isn’t Romney’s wealth per se – it’s his image, and his platform.
“It’s not the rich,” said Deutsch. “JFK was [from] the fifth wealthiest family in the country. It’s the point that he’s out of touch, and unempathetic and unfair.”
TIME’s Mark Halperin agreed that the strategy could work for the Obama campaign. “It energizes the Democratic base,” he said, and it “puts pressure on Romney and forces him into mistakes.”
Halperin said the strategy does something else, too. “The more they put pressure on [Romney] to talk about what he would cut, what kind of tax plan he wants, the more they can smoke him out,” he said. “And the White House thinks, the president thinks, the contrast between what the president is for and what Romney’s for is going to be to [Obama’s] benefit.”
“That’s not about class warfare,” Halperin added. “It’s about a real smart tactical frame on Romney to put pressure on him, rather than making the election about the Obama record.”
Of course, as Mika Brzezinski pointed out, it’s not clear that most voters even see the Buffett Rule, or a broader focus on inequality, as class warfare. A whopping 72 percent of respondents to a CNN poll released Monday -- including even a majority of Republicans -- said they favored the Rule.