NBC anchor David Gregory on NBC Nightly News (4/9/11) explaining how sees Obama's 2012 strategy:
And I thought what was striking about what the president said, if you listen to his comments made Friday night, he sounded very much like a Republican talking about the need to cut spending. That's the re-election play here. He wants the American people to know, particularly those independent voters, that he is in line with what a lot of Americans want, which is less government, trimming down the size and the scope of government. He wants to be able to say, "Look, I brought the sides together, I averted the shutdown, and I'm on board with cutting government spending." That's the message he wants to drive next year.
You could have a good argument about whether Obama is really behaving like a Republican. But to me the more revealing part is that Gregory seems to believes this is a wise political strategy, based on his notion that this is what voters want.
As we've pointed out before, public opinion polls indicate that voters mostly want someone to do something about jobs. The media believe that the public wants spending cuts–an idea, generally speaking, that is more in line with conservative or Republican ideology. Thus, a Democrat who embraces budget cuts will be portrayed as one doing what the public wants–no matter what the public actually wants.
This is, of course, the very same media that will be covering the 2012 election.