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Democrats, Republicans Pitch Old Ideas In New Packaging


Elections are about deciding which candidate or party will do the best job for those electing them. It's a question of past performance and of a vision for the future.

Today in two big speeches, President Obama and the chairman of the Republican National Committee attempted to frame that choice.

Here's NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: President Obama and Democrats have a problem. Six years after the financial crisis that caused the great recession, midway through Obama's second term, the economy has technically recovered, but many Americans don't feel it.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It's still harder than it should be to pay the bills and to put away some money. Even when you're working your tail off, it's harder than it should be to get ahead.

KEITH: Obama's pitch in a speech at Northwestern University in Illinois is that Democrats are the ones with the best ideas to fix that. There were no new policy prescriptions, rather, new framing for ideas the president has been talking about for quite some time. Raise the minimum wage, equal pay for women, clean energy, quality preschools, widely-available, affordable healthcare and investing in infrastructure.

OBAMA: I'm not on the ballot this fall. Michelle's pretty happy about that.


OBAMA: But make no mistake, these policies are on the ballot, every single one of them.

KEITH: And this is the point where a speech he said wasn't political got undeniably political. The Republicans, he implied, are the party of no.

OBAMA: A true opposition party should now have the courage to lay out their agenda, hopefully also grounded in facts.

KEITH: Funny thing - halfway across the country, a few hours earlier in a university auditorium in Washington, D.C., Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus ventured to do that.


CHAIRMAN REINCE PRIEBUS: People know what we're against. I want to talk about the things that we're for.

KEITH: While Obama had a four cornerstone foundation, Priebus presented 11 principles that unite Republicans as a party. Number one - the Constitution. Then jobs, spending, health care, veterans, national security, education, poverty, values, energy and immigration. And much like Obama's speech, this wasn't about new ideas. It was about new packaging.

PRIEBUS: We need to start growing America's economy instead of Washington's economy so that working Americans see better wages and more opportunity.

KEITH: He cited various proposals from Republican members of Congress on topics including taxes, job training and poverty. And Priebus argued Democrats have had enough time to try their ideas.

PRIEBUS: One election won't fix everything, but we can take a step in the right direction this November. If the American people hire us, we'll be ready on day one.

KEITH: And this is what you call the closing argument - expect to hear these messages repeated again and again in the 33 days until Election Day. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.