Fine tuning economic plans, 99 days before the election

US President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Getty Images

Obama and Romney duel it out over economy
Getty Images

(CBS News) All Americans can agree the economy needs repairing, but how to do so is a different story. As Election Day draws closer, Republicans are focusing on working with small businesses while Democrats are talking about building up the middle class rather than the wealthy.

The House this week plans to vote on a pair of tax plans that will illustrate that divide: The GOP-led House is likely to pass a proposal to extend the Bush-era tax rates -- for everyone -- through 2013. It's expected to reject a plan that passed in the Democratic-led Senate last week to extend the tax rates for individuals making less than $200,000 per year and couples making less than $250,000 per year.

After last week's Senate vote, House Speaker John Boehner called the Democratic plan a "small business tax hike." But 99 days out from Election Day, Democrats see this as a prime opportunity to attack the GOP for what they say are misplaced priorities. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is releasing new online ads today targeting 23 GOP House incumbents on the issue, charging them of supporting millionaires over the middle class.

"Republicans want to give you, the millionaire, another tax break--all while charging seniors $6,000 more for Medicare," a narrator says in the ad, referring to cost projections of the House GOP's Medicare reform plan.

In addition to running the ads, the DCCC held "Middle Class First" grassroots events in 19 congressional districts over the weekend.

Democrats point out that, according to recent polling, the public is on their side of the issue of tax cuts. However, a Gallup poll suggests their message may not be so politically powerful: Given a list of 12 policy priorities, voters list "increasing taxes on wealthy Americans" as the least important. Creating good jobs is the most important, followed by reducing corruption in government and reducing the federal deficit.

As Democrats campaign on recalibrating the tax code, they'll point out to voters that the Bush-era tax rates were a significant contributor to the deficit. "Under House Republicans' plan, the rich would get richer, the middle class would pay the price, and the deficit would grow," DCCC Chairman Steve Israel wrote in a memo to Democratic candidates last week.

While Democrats focus on tax equity, Republicans see a more potent political message in promising to foster small businesses. Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and the Republican Party are still hammering President Obama for recent remarks that the GOP says undermined the hard work of American entrepreneurs.

"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help," Mr. Obama said earlier this month. "There was a great teacher somewhere in your life... Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen... The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."

Romney and Republicans have focused this snippet of Mr. Obama's remarks: "If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

The Romney campaign released a new web video on Monday that features a small business owner from Ohio. "What we need is a leader who truly understands -- truly understands -- how business works," the business owner says in the ad.

Hitting on the same theme, the campaign is holding 18 "We did build this" events on Monday in 12 key states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

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