Contrast, not compromise, is Obama’s new tack. Obama has now laid out the choice that he wants to define the 2012 election. On one side, a Republican Party committed to protecting corporate jets, Wall Street financiers and the outsize share of national private wealth — more than one-third and growing larger — held by the wealthiest 1 percent. On the other, a Democratic president committed to securing the livelihoods of teachers, construction workers, first responders and other pillars of a middle class under siege.

Even obstructionist Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina says the contrast puts Republicans in a bind. “If we vote for this plan, we’ll own the economy with the president, and he desperately needs someone else to blame it on,” DeMint said. “If we vote against it, he’s going to try to say Congress blocked his ability to create jobs.”

JPMorgan Chase predicts that Obama’s jobs bill would increase growth by 1.9 percent and create 1.5 million jobs. That doesn’t mean it will happen. Republicans are willing to risk a double-dip recession as they wait for the inauguration of President Romney or Perry, or a white knight yet to be named. “The people who sent us here,” Obama said in his speech to Congress, “don’t have the luxury of waiting 14 months” for help. In Columbus, Ohio, 3,500 people cheered when Obama said he could create jobs if other politicians stopped “worrying so much about their jobs.”

High unemployment is a death knell for incumbent presidents. Yet public mistrust of Republicans appears to be keeping Obama in the game. A Public Policy Polling survey taken just after Obama’s jobs speech found that Obama leads former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney by 49 percent to 45 percent.

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