Obama’s favorite strategy is to be middle-of-the-road: don’t side with either Democrats or Republicans and hope both sides support a compromise plan.  To do this effectively, it is important not to reveal your true preferences and maintain “strategic ambiguity” as clarity risks alienating one audience or the other.  But if it is obvious that one side is not going to support you, you have to show your hand to get the other audience to buy in.  Otherwise, no-one will support your policy and it will never pass.  I mentioned that Obama already had to do this earlier this year with healthcare reform.  Now an interesting article by Matt Bai points out that he faces a similar dilemma over debt reduction.

Mr. Obama has almost invariably sought to position himself halfway between traditionalism and reform, just as his vague notions of “hope” and “change” during the 2008 campaign were meant to appeal simultaneously to both disaffected independent voters and core progressives. And in virtually every case, he has satisfied pretty much no one….Since he isn’t willing to break publicly with liberals, independent and conservative voters tend to see him as a tool of the left. And since he generally won’t do exactly what the left wants him to do, he ends up with very little gratitude from his own party.

This political no-man’s land, however, is about to become uninhabitable. The national debt is near the top of any list of voter concerns at the moment, and when his commission votes Friday on its final recommendations, Mr. Obama will be handed concrete and contrasting options for addressing it.