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John King: Obama trying to get upper hand in looming showdown

By John King, CNN Chief National Correspondent
July 26, 2013 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
President Obama says it's time to refocus on economic policies that help the middle class but Republicans say the president is repeating the same old message.
President Obama says it's time to refocus on economic policies that help the middle class but Republicans say the president is repeating the same old message.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Obama looking to position himself well in case government shutdown threatened
  • Marco Rubio tries to turn tables on Obama, laying blame at his feet
  • Republicans will likely use their recess to figure out how far to go with this fight

Washington (CNN) -- Republicans are right in saying President Barack Obama's new economy road show is a rerun — full of policy proposals and political attacks the country, and the GOP, have heard before.

But there is a new goal in recycling and retooling the Obama economic pitch: a potential government shutdown looms on the horizon and the president is looking to make sure he has the upper hand as that showdown enters crunch time.

Is a shutdown really a possible outcome? Don't bet on it. But it also can't be ruled out.

Just Friday, for example, GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said he could support a short-term government spending plan that excluded funding for Obamacare.

The White House had made clear the president would veto any spending plan that did not provide funding for his signature health care initiative. Rubio, trying to turn the tables, suggested it would be the president who deserved blame for any disruptive government shutdown.

"What the president's basically saying is that, 'If you don't fund Obamacare, I won't sign a bill that funds the government.' So he's the one that's threatening to shut down the government, not us," the Florida Republican and potential 2016 presidential contender said in a radio interview.

Obama looks ahead to budget battle
Reset for the U.S. economy?

But the White House believes it has the upper hand in the politics here, and the president's road show is part of an effort to reinforce its position -- for the negotiations and maneuvering in September and for the early framing of the 2014 midterm elections.

"Shutting down the government just because I'm for keeping it open -- that's not an economic plan," the president said Thursday in Jacksonville.

In addition to making his case for funding his health care plan, he called on Congress, as he has dozens of times before, to approve billions in new spending on roads and bridges and other infrastructure.

Yawn was, in essence, the reaction from the House Republican leadership.

Remember, Speaker John Boehner isn't necessarily trying to compete with the president in a national debate over economic priorities. He, instead, is looking carefully at his majority and trying to position the party so that it can keep and perhaps build its numbers in 2014.

Mitt Romney, not Obama, won the most House districts in 2012 even as the Democratic incumbent won a big re-election victory because of his strength in urban areas and most big suburbs.

So as the president asserts he won the election and therefore should get more of what he is asking for, Boehner is looking at a different map and feels confident he can say no, and still maintain his majority next year.

A government shutdown, however, might change the 2014 calculus.

Which is why the president is trying to use his bully pulpit, and his recent travels, to make the case the GOP would be to blame.

The moment of truth is likely to come at the end of September and so Republicans will use their time at home in August to test just how far to go this time in their never-ending disagreements with the president over government spending and priorities.

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