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In the State of the Union Run-Up: Whitehouse on the Attack

Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, two years away from his re-election battle, has engaged in a deliberate effort, of late, to signal his concern for the state's economic woes - an important effort for a senator whose high-profile battles, on torture and the like, aren't directly connected to his constituents' troubles.

He's been visiting local manufacturers as part of a "Making It in Rhode Island" tour. And he's invited Leslie Taito, CEO of the Rhode Island Manufacturing Extension Service, to be his guest at President Obama's State of the Union address tonight.

But Whitehouse is still a potent liberal symbol - still called upon to play the partisan, to serve up a little red meat to the party's base. The most recent example: a conference call with reporters yesterday, alongside Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, that served as a sort of "prebuttal" to GOP Congressman Paul Ryan's Republican response to the Obama speech.

Ryan has released a "roadmap" to fiscal health. It is a plan cast, on the right, as a serious response to the federal government's debt problem from a GOP often accused of dodging the tough questions on cuts and, from the left, as a dangerous blueprint for gutting Medicare and Social Security.

From the Daily Kos:

Whitehouse focused on how Ryan's plan would explode the income gap, already unprecedented in modern times in America by slashing taxes on capital gains and eliminating the estate tax. "The Ryan plan essentially relives the richest Americans from any responsibility to pay for the support of their country," he said.

 

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