By using his State of the Union speech to draw sharp contrasts with Republicans on such high-profile issues as taxes and the housing market, President Obama opened an election-year debate on the role of government that could be more intense than any in decades.
Warning Congress that "I intend to fight obstruction with action," he painted a confrontational picture that stands in sharp contrast with the conciliatory approach taken by the last Democrat to seek a second term, Bill Clinton.
In fact, Obama's strategy more closely resembles that ofGeorge W. Bushin 2004, who used polarizing issues to increase turnout of his supporters and made few concessions to the center. The approach increases the chance that if he wins a second term, Obama could claim a mandate for his program. It also carries more risk of failure in a nation still deeply skeptical of government activism.
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