David Leonhardt (Once Again) on Obama the 'Fiscal Conservative'

Chief New York Times economics writer David Leonhardt celebrated the return of Obama the 'fiscal conservative' in his Wednesday column, 'Negotiating Election Headwinds.'

Maybe it's not the economy, stupid.

White House officials have begun to entertain the idea that they can run for re-election without being able to point to a strengthening economy. For one thing, they may not have a choice. For another, they believe that recent Republican budget proposals have given President Obama an opportunity to draw contrasts in which he is more in line with most voters.

Leonhardt becomes the latest in a line of Times reporters to take Obama's vague budget-cutting rhetoric at face value, even though he's made no concrete proposals and put nothing in writing.

His attempt at a big deficit-reduction package - which seemed to come back from the dead on Tuesday - allows him to project a different image. He takes on the moderate role of fiscal conservative, looking to cut spending and increase taxes on the affluent. The refusal of many Republicans to consider such a package, Mr. Obama noted last week, puts them to the right of most Republican voters, polls show. House Republicans have opposed any tax increase and have instead proposed an overhaul of Medicare.

During the presidential campaign Leonhardt also insisted against all evidence that Obama was some kind of 'fiscal conservative.'