When it comes to the taxing the rich President Obama has the clear upper hand in the realm of public opinion. A new Bloomberg Poll found Americans overwhelmingly believe Obama won a mandate to raise taxes on the wealthy. From Bloomberg:
President Barack Obama won the public argument over taxes so decisively that almost half of Republicans now say he has an election mandate to raise rates on the rich.
Majorities of about 2-to-1 also read the election results as an endorsement of Obama’s pledge to protect Social Security and Medicare benefits, according to a Bloomberg National Poll of 1,000 adults conducted Dec. 7-10.
This highlights a broader point about who actually holds the leverage right now. Taxing the rich is broadly popular, voters think Obama won a mandate to do this, and if Congress takes no action taxes on the rich will go up when the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this year. The GOP could try holding the middle class taxes in an attempt to defend the rich but that would be a very public and deeply unpopular fight for them.
On most of the big issue being discusses Obama does not need to compromise to get what he claims he wants. If he simply refuse to negotiate the GOP will likely eventual be forced to fold on most of the important issues including tax rates and the debt ceiling.
This means if Obama agrees to a bipartisan deal it will because he supports the policies in the deal. He should be force to fully own everything it contains. Neither political pressure, public sentiment or legislative realities is forcing him to compromise at this time.