Republican wealth battle provides Obama a new campaign issue

The two leading Republican presidential candidates are now aggressively casting each other as out of touch — the “influence-peddler” (what Mitt Romney calls Newt Gingrich) versus the wealthy corporate executive who pays a low tax rate (Gingrich on Romney).

Their battle over the last two weeks has provided new fodder for President Obama and Democrats and could help him in the general election. Romney effectively forced Gingrich to release records and defend his service as an adviser to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, linking the ex-speaker to the disgraced mortgage giants.

Gingrich pushed Romney to release his returns on the same day when President Obama will give a State of the Union address in which he will call for upper-income people to pay more in taxes.

[MSNBCMSN video=”″ w=”592″ h=”346″ launch_id=”46115648″ id=”msnbc32f2ee”]

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Here’s how it helps Obama. The president’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night will draw millions of viewers, but is likely to be forgotten quickly in the midst of an intense campaign.

But the Republican primary battle could last for another two months. And the two candidates right now are making Obama’s arguments in a more compelling way in debates and on the campaign trail than the president can himself.

Obama is planning to run for reelection as a man frustrated with the ways of Washington and calling for increasing on taxes on the wealthy to fund programs for the middle class. Romney is highlighting Gingrich’s years of work in Washington, providing the kind of aid for big companies that many Americans bemoan.

Gingrich is closely linking Romney to big business and the layoffs that often result, another sensitive issue for Americans in the midst of slow job growth.

Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @perrybaconjr