'Class Warfare' Is Central In Presidential Race06:49

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As the four GOP presidential candidates prepare for a busy weekend of campaigning in Florida ahead of Tuesday's presidential primary there, wealth continues to be a major issue in the race.

It was evident Thursday night, as Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich clashed over their investments in the debate in Jacksonville.

Here's Gingrich criticizing Romney for investing in two mortgage giants linked to the real estate meltdown that has devastated Florida:

We discovered, to our shock, Gov. Romney owns shares of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Gov. Romney made a million dollars off of selling some of that.

Romney then pointed out that Gingrich has invested indirectly in Fannie and Freddie as well.

Though they're both part of the 1 percent — in the top 1 percent of earners in the U.S. — it is class warfare, and we're likely to hear a lot more of it as 2012 goes on.

President Obama is tapping into voter anger over the wealth issue talking about the need for tax reform. And he has sharpened his message since his 2008 campaign.

Here's candidate Obama three years ago, just after winning the Iowa caucuses:

This was the moment when we finally beat back the politics of fear and doubt and cynicism, the politics where we tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, this was the moment.

Now compare that with President Obama's State of the Union address earlier this week:

If you’re earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn’t get special tax subsidies or deductions. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent of American families, your taxes shouldn’t go up.

To talk about how so-called "class warfare" is playing out in the presidential campaign, we sat down with Michael Cohen, a political historian and a fellow at the non-partisan think tank The Century Foundation. Cohen is paying close attention to the president's change in tone.

This program aired on January 27, 2012.

Bob Oakes Twitter Senior Correspondent
Bob Oakes has been WBUR's Morning Edition anchor since 1992.