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2012ers respond to Obama’s State of the Union

President Barack Obama spoke to the nation on Tuesday night in the annual State of the Union, and while many of those who watched the speech gave it high marks, there is one unsurprising group of individuals who have been out front in criticizing the president’s remarks: his potential Republican opponents in the 2012 presidential race.

No Republican has officially entered the field of candidates yet, but a number of GOPers are clearly contemplating campaigns. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann had the highest profile response to the president among possible 2012 candidates. She was tapped to rebut the speech by the Tea Party Express, countering the official Republican Party response from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Though it was not the official response, CNN chose to air Bachmann’s speech, a decision that is less surprising when you factor in that they are co-sponsoring a debate with Tea Party Express later this year. Read my colleague Andy Birkey’s liveblog of Bachmann’s remarks.

Other possible candidates jumped into the fray. Many offered subtle compliments before tearing into the meat of Obama’s messaging. The 2012ers consistently questioned Obama’s willingness to actually reduce the government’s budget and the effectiveness of the president’s call for a freeze on discretionary spending. Of course, giving their need to posture against Obama in advance of the party’s nominating cycle, it is not shocking to see 2012ers positioning themselves at the forefront of criticizing the speech.

PBS Newshour caught up with Indiana Rep. Mike Pence in the halls of Congress last night to get his take. “It appears that the president is committed to more spending and more government and more of the same of what the American people rejected on election day last fall,” Pence said. When pushed by the interviewer about how that reconciles with Obama’s call for a discretionary spending freeze, Pence argued that a freeze at the current level was not enough, and attacked the language calling for new infrastructure investment.

Watch the brief interview with Pence:

Fox News Business brought on Texas congressman and Libertarian favorite Ron Paul, who said that all spending needs to be cut, not just the discretionary spending that Obama seeks to freeze. “I think it’s what the people expect from government,” Paul said. “As long as we have this philosophic acceptance that we are to be the policemen of the world, we’re to have a welfare state from cradle to grave, we’re involved in delivery of medical care for everybody that needs it, free education for everybody, you just can’t please people. You’re always going to have to the pressure to spend, it’s much bigger than the budget.”

South Dakota U.S. Sen. John Thune also didn’t buy Obama’s rhetoric on saving, instead focusing on his frequent use of the term “investment” as a sign that the president intends to continue to increase spending. “I understand the goal, but right now this is going to be — anytime you talk about ‘investment’ it means new spending,” Thune told TPM’s Brian Beutler on Wednesday. “When you talk about new spending at a time when we’ve got this financial picture, I don’t know how he’s going to accomplish all the things that he wants to get done, and then still talk about a five-year freeze on discretionary spending. You can’t do it all.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wrote on his PAC’s website:

President Obama knows where he wants to go, but he has no idea how to get there. Under President Obama’s economic leadership, more Americans have lost their jobs than any time in modern history. The on-the-job economic education of the President has cost American families almost a trillion dollars in failed stimulus schemes and, unfortunately, he’s still failing the course. Rhetoric, however soaring, does not put pay checks in pay envelopes at the end of the week. You can’t build a high speed rail system fast enough to outrun the President’s misguided regulations, higher taxes or lack of focus on jobs. Hopefully he is learning. American families are depending on him.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich argued on Fox News that the 2011 State of the Union was full of showy language and lacked any substance. “Look, the tragedy of this president is that he’s very, very clever, and assumes the rest of us are very, very slow. This country’s in a constant conversation with itself,” Gingrich said. “Within three or four days, the average American is gonna realize, he didn’t offer to cut spending, he didn’t focus on jobs, he didn’t tell us the truth about reforming government.”

Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain pushed a press release attacking the president’s speech. Unlike the other likely candidates, Cain has formed an official presidential exploratory committee as he contemplates mounting an underdog campaign for the GOP nomination. Cain said:

The true state of our union is fragile, but the true will of the people is strong. The people will demand effective economic growth policies which were noticeably absent from the President’s speech.

The American people are taxed too much and too often. The jobs-killing health care overhaul saddles businesses and taxpayers with even costlier medical bills. Our national debt caused by unbridled spending will be an agonizing weight on the backs of our children and grandchildren. And the federal government is circumventing its Constitutional limits at nearly every turn.

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